National Art Library collection development policy: documentary materials

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Context
  3. Aim and scope of the NAL's development of documentary materials
  4. Co-operation
  5. Selection
  6. The NAL and the V&A
  7. Level of works collected
  8. Chronological and geographical range
  9. Languages
  10. Collecting strengths - Introduction
  11. Access to learning collections
  12. Core subject collections
  13. Formats
  14. Retention and de-accessioning

1. Introduction

The Victoria and Albert Museum holds one of the world’s major libraries for the study of art, craft and design. For the applied and decorative arts it has few peers. From its inception in the late 1830s and its establishment as the library of what became the South Kensington Museum after 1851 (from 1899 the V&A), the National Art Library (NAL) has collected on an international scale. Its concern to give an over-view of what has been published on the subjects represented by the Museum can be traced back to the great 'Universal Catalogue of Books on Art' (London: Chapman and Hall, 1870), which aimed at a complete collective bibliography of works about art held in all the great libraries of the western world. By the end of 2003, the library’s catalogue became available on-line, consisting of just over 730,000 records.

Books and ‘library-type materials’ are housed in various parts of the V&A. The Museum of Childhood has a growing collection of works relating to childhood. The curatorial departments of the Museum (Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass; Furniture, Textiles and Fashion; Asia; Theatre Collections) each have their own working libraries, as do the sections of the Word & Image Department other than the NAL. These have been developed since the institution of the materials-based departments in 1908 and the geographically-based departments in the 1970s.

This policy governs only the documentary materials acquired and managed by the National Art Library. It is restricted to secondary works of a bibliographical nature, in hard copy, electronic and other formats, and a variety of forms of documentation ranging from ephemera and recordings to documentary manuscripts and illuminated codices. It is in part a revision of the collection development policy produced for the National Art Library in 1993: The National Art Library: a policy for the development of the collections, eds. Jan van der Wateren and Rowan Watson (National Art Library, V&A, 1993). The present policy covers mainly new and recent publications; ‘second-hand books’ are collected only when of self-evident importance for the Museum’s core subjects – there is no effort to retrospectively complete gaps when any title not in the NAL is known to be in other UK libraries. Books acquired as curatorial objects (bindings, artists’ books, illustrated books, fine printing, books significant as historical objects, books remarkable for their design or material aspects) are dealt with in the V&A’s acquisition policy and collecting plans.

2. Context

The present policy takes account of three developments that condition the environment in which the library functions:

  • (i) Amalgamation: the NAL was merged with the Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings in 2001. This brought together two elements that grew together from the Museum’s foundation but which were separated in 1908. The new department is known as the Word and Image Department (WID).
  • (2) Access: as part of the drive to increase access to publicly owned collections and to diversify the audiences served, the library’s role, beyond that of a curatorial department, is to be re-focussed as an Information Gateway for the subjects covered by the Museum’s collections and the world of art, craft and design in general.
  • (3) Co-operation and automation: there has been an increasing trend to consider bibliographical materials held in UK libraries as a single distributed resource. This has led to initiatives for the devolution of a collective, shared responsibility for collecting materials that are not governed by copyright deposit. This is made possible by automation, which allow holdings to be instantaneously (or nearly instantaneously) compared and consulted. The NAL’s catalogue is now fully automated and can be consulted from remote locations; at the same time, many of the NAL’s services can be – or will be - delivered via the Web.

3. Aim and scope of the NAL’s development of documentary materials

The NAL collects to provide comprehensive documentation for the applied and decorative arts, and to support its role as the hub of national information provision on art and design. To these ends, the NAL aims to exploit the potential of its automated catalogue to create links with images – of both objects and books - and with explanatory texts as a means of supplementing bibliographical records to provide access to fields of study beyond the traditional library catalogue.

In the interests of effective use of resources and expertise, the NAL will increasingly capitalise upon its relation with its parent institution, the V&A, and focus acquisition on what is published world-wide about the subjects represented by the V&A and its collections, that is to say the core subjects of the applied arts, craft and design. It will also continue to collect materials which allow study of the place of the fine arts and material culture in the societies represented in the V&A's collections; however, in these areas, co-operation with other libraries will be vital to ensure appropriate coverage nationally.

As part of its national role, the V&A will develop an improved information service (currently described as the Information Gateway) about the V&A's collections and about art, craft and design as a whole, available both onsite and from remote locations. The on-site element will provide open access to the more accessible literature, literature that falls within the 'access to learning' definition, and assistance with web navigation. The NAL will continue to serve scholars as well as continuing to provide a service for casual enquiries from the general publiabout  Fundamental to the on-site and remote service will be the provision of subject introductions to the best currently available literature, and links to institutions that hold material not available at the V&A.

As part of the Museum’s efforts to address wider audiences and extend the range of its visitors, major developments within the NAL’s premises are planned: the West Room, currently occupied by offices and storage, will be transformed to create a welcoming and seductive entrance for readers and visitors to the Museum.

At various times in its history, the NAL has been staffed by curators or librarians in varying proportions. The current policy is to have both professions working together. This will maximise the benefits of the different perspectives they bring to bear on our different responsibilities, and enable the NAL to be in a position to deliver appropriate services to all users.

4. Co-operation

London is rich in libraries for the study of art, craft and design. There are various mechanisms for promoting co-operation in the matter of collection development. Among these are the National Co-ordination Committee of ARLIS/UK & Ireland (the Art Libraries Society), the Library Committee on the History of Art, and the Palaeography Co-operative Acquisition Committee for Facsimiles, Microforms, Electronic Resources. Where manuscripts and archives are concerned, the NAL has long had regular informal contact with the British Library Department of Manuscripts, with other national, university and local archive repositories, and with manuscript collections, whenever desirable material becomes available; co-operation with the Historical Manuscripts Commission, now part of The National Archives, has been regular in such cases.

The NAL hopes to take part in the Research Libraries Network, the new body proposed by the Research Support Libraries Group to lead provision of research information in the UK in the new electronic environment.

Further arrangements for co-ordinating development strategies are being worked out with other libraries in London and beyond whose subject areas overlap with those of the NAL. Such arrangements will develop as art libraries develop automated catalogues that allow the totality of holdings to be considered as a single, jointly managed resource.

The NAL has taken a leading role in the ARLIS survey of holdings of periodicals relating to art, craft and design, and in the development of the ARLIS.NET directory, which plots the strengths of libraries nationally in their coverage of art, craft and design. The NAL likewise supports initiatives to map the strengths of individual collections throughout the UK.

The NAL is also engaged in negotiations elsewhere to co-ordinate collecting. The library of the Tate Gallery (Tate Modern and Tate Britain) is strong in post-1945 European art, and in 20th-century painting generally. The library of the Royal Academy concentrates on works about academicians but also covers painting in Britain from the 18th century. The National Gallery Library collects to document European painting from the High Middle Ages to about 1900, though in this case there is no immediate plan for automation. In all these cases, discussions are taking place to co-ordinate collection development activities.

The NAL’s acquisition of British imprint books, which are acquired through legal deposit by the British Library, will be limited to those essential for reference and access to learning. The NAL and BL have set up a working group to examine a number of proposals to maximise the value of collaboration, in particular the feasibility for NAL cataloguers to enhance the records of titles relating to art and design held in the British Library and for such records to appear in the NAL catalogue; such arrangements would entail devising mechanisms to give NAL readers access to works described on the NAL catalogue at the British Library itself. The use of the Z39.50 protocol to link catalogues creates further possibilities, since it allows a multitude of databases to be interrogated by a single search. Z39.50 is a well-established system that enables users to search for information held in a wide range of databases, including library catalogues and museum information systems. The Z39.50 protocol allows the user to search one or more databases simultaneously, using standardised methods. The results can then be sorted and displayed in the user's own software, which is quite independent of the databases themselves. For example, products such as Reference Manager or Procite can make use of Z39.50 to obtain records from library catalogues and import them into the researcher's own bibiographic reference database. For more information about Z39.50, see the web pages maintained by the Library of Congress at: http://www.loabout gov/z3950/agency/. We are also exploring the use of Z39.50 to enable simultaneous searches of the different databases within the Museum, for example the Collections Information System and the NAL Online Catalogue.

The NAL will seek to be involved in the elaboration of principles for legal deposit of electronic publications in the UK, in the wake of recent legislation, and to establish a role for itself in regard to those electronic publications that relate to art, craft and design.

Automated catalogues are, of course, crucial to the effectiveness with which any library can take its place in a distributed national collection, as are appropriate arrangements for access, retention policies and budgets sufficient to enable appropriate coverage of the agreed field.

5. Selection

Though more fully described in procedure manuals, the way in which the NAL selects materials for addition to stock has some significance for indicating how its collections develop. Individual members of staff in the Documentary Materials section of the NAL are responsible for discrete areas of collecting (Decorative Arts, Paintings, Design, Contemporary, Asia, Medieval & Renaissance, Reference). Publicity materials of publishers and booksellers are scrutinised by those with responsibility for these areas, as are a large number of periodicals and newsletters. The contribution of the expertise of V&A curators is maintained by a system of liaison between the NAL and Museum departments, and ways to re-enforce this dialogue are being investigated. Suggestions from colleagues and from the public for additions to NAL stock are encouraged. For expensive works, there is liaison on a title-by-title basis with other libraries. Major publications on V&A core subjects are examined in detail to check that works referred to in footnotes are available either in the V&A or elsewhere in Britain. The NAL will always investigate the availability of expensive or specialist works (ie outside its core areas) in libraries within the M25 area and in the UK generally before committing itself to their acquisition. For purposes of reference and for its core areas, the NAL needs to have very full documentation: beyond this, it considers that knowledge about the location of a work that is likely not to be heavily used will be as important as actually possessing it. The NAL aims to play a full part in developing frameworks within which there can be shared responsibility for maintaining full documentation about art, craft and design.

6. The NAL and the V&A

Within the V&A, the collections of the NAL are supplemented by the libraries and documentation kept in the Museum’s curatorial departments and the Museum of Childhood. These represent ‘working tools’ for the subject area in question, and include works that refer to individual objects in their care and to the ways they wish to interpret them.

The Museum’s aim is for all books held in departmental libraries, and in the libraries of the branch museums, to be included in the NAL’s computer catalogue, so that access may be had to all from a single source. However, regulations governing use of, and access to, works in departmental libraries are likely to differ from those obtaining in the NAL.

The detail maintained in departmental libraries’ indexes and other library finding aids often goes beyond what the library can supply. These indexes represent a separate resource managed locally. Information on Museum objects is also available in the V&A Archive. It is hoped that the Information Gateway will be able to link the various kinds of documentation held within the Museum as a way of providing a central point for access to it. Currently the feasibility is being investigated of creating an interface for simultaneous access to records from the NAL’s online catalogue, the database for museum objects (CIS), and the archives catalogue. Some specialist areas of the Museum’s bibliographical holdings are developed within departments: technical and scientific works are selected and housed in the V&A’s Conservation Department library, but the process of recording all works on the NAL’s online catalogue is under way.

7. Level of works collected

In gathering documentation for the V&A’s core subjects and for the history and practice of art, craft and design generally, the NAL collects works which add to knowledge and serious debate. Elementary guides are not usually collected except by way of representative sample. The NAL also considers for acquisition works which are less serious in intent, including coffee-table books, collectors guides, trade literature, mass-circulation periodicals and various audio-visual and CD publications, and acquires selectively those which have some elements that add significantly to the documentary resources of the Museum. Art publishing today is characterised at the popular level by books which repackage other works. Many such works are intended for the gift market. Publications of this sort are not normally collected. Instructional manuals for areas such as ceramics, metalwork, architecture or photography are not normally collected except selectively when they throw light on popular practice or impact significantly upon the work of a major practitioner or movement.

8. Chronological and geographical range

For societies generally considered to be part of the ‘western tradition’, the library’s collecting focuses on the period from about 400 AD to the present.

For Europe, works are collected selectively for the Greek and Roman periods, sufficient to document what had a subsequent impact upon western art and material culture, that is to say Europe and north America. Works relating to Medieval and Renaissance Europe are acquired both for their relevance to the V&A’s holdings and for contextual aspects that allow these objects to be effectively presented; where the publication of source materials is concerned (eg archival materials, chronicles), only those that relate to objects of a kind held by the V&A are bought. The same approach but interpreted in a narrower fashion governs works acquired for the Early Modern, Modern and Contemporary periods; here, the periods are covered in detail by many other London libraries. However, the needs of students on the V&A / RCA MA courses are borne in mind.

A reference collection is maintained for Asian civilisations, ancient and modern, of which the arts and material culture are collected by the Museum (Far East, Japan, South and South-East Asia). Other libraries in London, staffed by librarians with specialist subject and language knowledge, cover these areas. Advice about what the NAL can acquire to supplement these libraries is regularly sought from V&A curators, though significant works are always acquired if they relate to V&A objects and the environments in which they were produced and consumed.

African, Latin-American, native American and Oceanic civilisations are covered at a minimal level, except for periods from the 17-18th centuries, where contact with western cultures was significant.

9. Languages

For subject areas that are central to the Museum’s purpose, works are collected in all European languages, the criterion being the usefulness and value of the text and images. Subsequent translations into English are acquired for the more important works when there is considered to be no English equivalent, or when the translation includes important new matter. A few works are acquired in Chinese and Japanese at the behest of curators in the Asian Department; these are catalogued by non-V&A contract staff when there is no expertise within the NAL. Works in other oriental languages are very rarely acquired.

10. Collecting strengths - Introduction

This document uses the following terms to describe its collecting. In order to make the present policy more useful outside the V&A, the terms chosen are those used by the ARLIS survey of collection strengths.

  • Minimal Level – outline of the subject
  • Basic Information Level – materials that serve to introduce and define a subject
  • Study Level – supporting sustained independent study
  • Research Level – materials that allow current research to be followed in some depth, without seeking to supply comprehensively published primary materials
  • Comprehensive Level – materials that allow fullest research, with all significant works actively sought out.
  • The library’s areas of collecting can be defined as:
  • 'Access to Learning' Collections, with works that document, and maintain a current awareness in, the whole field of the fine arts, the applied and decorative arts, craft and design, both for the serious beginner and those with extended knowledge in some aspect of the field, including contextual and basic reference material.
  • Core Collections, with works on the applied arts and decorative arts that are central to the Museum’s purpose and reflected in the names of its materials-based curatorial departments (the geographically-based Asian Department contains similar classes of artefact). The Core Collections may be divided into those serving subjects for which there is a relatively small amount of publishing, and those characterised by publishing in bulk. In the latter case, strict criteria regarding quality, originality and usefulness have to be brought to bear in selection.

11. Access to learning collections

These provide a basic bibliography of art, craft and design, one that is international in scope. Included are works that allow an over-view of the subject area, and allow access to the way that it is and has been studied, and to what can be termed ‘the current state of knowledge’. A small part of these collections will be made available as a browsing library for both casual readers and those who come for concentrated study.

Under this rubric are collected:

  • reference works for art, craft and design
  • encyclopaedias, bibliographical and subject-based dictionaries (in all languages)
  • works about the societies which have produced the kinds of objects found in V&A collections
  • works that provide a historical or other framework for presenting V&A collections
  • works about past and contemporary societies (of an historical, anthropological, or sociological nature) which have influenced the way in which any period is considered.
  • works about the way objects are marketed and consumed, from studies of the advertising industry to investigation of shopping and its history.

12. Core subject collections

The core subjects are those defined by the artefacts that form the foundation collection of the Museum. These subjects are reflected in the names of V&A materials-based departments. The artefacts, of a similar kind, found in the geographically-based Asian Department, extend the scope of the core subjects outside western Europe and the Americas to India and South-East Asia, the Far East and the Middle East. The names of the branch museums similarly indicate another dimension to the core collections. The name of the materials-based departments and branch museums indicate the following subject areas:

  • Sculpture (up to 1900)
  • Metalwork (including silver and jewellery)
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Furniture
  • Textiles
  • Fashion
  • Word & image (paintings, designs, photographs, prints and books)
  • Theatre studies
  • Childhood

The word ‘Art’ today is largely conceived of as painting rather than the applied and decorative arts; painting and to a lesser extent sculpture attract most attention by publishers. The V&A’s mission was to create a link between what the 19th century regarded as fine art and the applied arts that would improve the design of British products. The following account of subject areas in which the Library collects makes a division between those subjects on which little is published, and those where selection is made according to the criteria discussed above (ie contributing to the advance of knowledge and supporting contemporary debate).

Works on the following subjects, whether considering historic, modern or contemporary periods, are collected to comprehensive level:

  • Applied and decorative Arts (historic, modern and contemporary)
  • Ceramics
  • Furniture
  • Glass
  • Jewellery
  • Metalwork
  • Sculpture to about 1900
  • Textiles

A great amount is published about the following subjects, a large proportion of it in glossy format, ‘re-packaged’ and derivative in nature; strict quality controls are applied in these areas. Works in the following areas are collected on a selective basis to a comprehensive level:

  • Architecture
    The Library collects selectively works on architecture. Emphasis is placed on works that discuss the subject in the wider context of art history, reflecting the influence of architecture on artistic movements, ornament, design and the development of taste. Areas to be collected will include:
    • Works discussing architecture from a design point of view
    • Architecture and interior design
    • Architecture and artistic movements
    • Philosophy of architecture
    • Architecture and society
    • Urban environment
    • Monographs on major historic architects
    • Monographs on contemporary architects who have had a wider influence on contemporary design
  • The book
    Bindings, illustration, fine printing, book design (for both manuscript and printed books, from fine printing to comics) and children’s books were represented in the Museum’s foundation collections. Works on these subjects are collected to comprehensive level when they relate to design aspects rather than the actual technology of production. Catalogues and bibliographies are collected only when they relate to the holdings of the NAL.
  • Contemporary Art ( from painting to installations )
    Works on applied and decorative arts that can be called contemporary are collected comprehensively. It is not possible, in practice, to cut off the fields of design and craft from the contemporary practice of art, so that works about current activities comprehended by the notion of ‘art’ are collected to study level, though works that relate to objects and activities within the V&A to research level.

    Works about the practitioners who condition the contemporary art scene across the world are collected to study level, the emphasis being upon those which are likely to have a permanent value and which are significant indicators of the ‘art scene’ as a whole. Works on artists who use video or digital media, and holography are collected selectively to support the V&A’s holdings of such materials. No attempt is made to document the entirety of contemporary art practice.

  • Design (historic, modern and contemporary)
    • General
      The NAL collects to a comprehensive level material covering all aspects of design, from graphic and industrial design to product and interior design. However the collection focuses primarily on designers and design movements that have had a significant influence on the decorative arts. Particular emphasis is placed on design principles, elements, styles and decorative motifs, as well as design as it is experienced by urban populations in the industrialised world, from guidance systems in transport to window dressing.
    • Graphic design
      Works are collected to a comprehensive level on the subject both as an art form and as marketing tool, particularly in the field of publishing and packaging; this includes promotional design, advertising, packaging, editorial design and motion graphics.
    • Interior design
      Works are collected to a comprehensive level on the history and current practice of interior design in all its aspects, particularly those on successful designers and practices, and materials that have had major influences on the way it is and has been carried out.
    • Landscape design
      Works are collected very selectively, as an adjunct to works on architecture and interior design.
    • Product design
      Works on the background of commonly-available products in industrialised societies, from the conception to the marketing and distribution, are collected to research level. In some cases this provides documentation for objects held by the V&A, in others it provides a surrogate for the ‘original’.
    • Production and TV design
      Works are collected very selectively: only major works that relate this area to the wider field of design are sought.
  • Fashion
    The NAL's collecting, to a comprehensive level, focuses on the theory and history of costume, trends and periods, key designers and contemporary fashion. Particular attention is paid to the business aspects of marketing fashion, and to the fashion ‘counter-culture’ in industrialised societies. Accounts of commercial and student fashion shows are also collected. Material about accessories, makeup/body art, hairstyles and stage costume is collected to study level only.
  • Painting (historic and modern)
    Painting, in western society, has always served to define notions of art; it is a subject of major importance even for an institution devoted to the applied and decorative arts. The practice of painting has always been related to the need to furnish interiors. Paintings provide spaces with consciously or unconsciously constructed messages relevant to their intended environment.The V&A houses a major collection of paintings, works given partly in support of its educational mission and partly to form the nucleus of a Collection of British Painting. When the Museum’s goal was to apply art to the products of industry, paintings were seen as a major resource for study.

    The V&A houses the National Collection of Painting in Watercolour, so that works on this subject are collected at a comprehensive level, as are works on fresco and mosaics, both revived in the 19th century for decorative purposes.

    The Museum’s Asian Department holds a major collection of Indian – and some other oriental - painting. Works are collected at a basic level to support the management of these materials and research on them. Subject libraries elsewhere in London, whose staff have specialist knowledge and language skills, carry major responsibility for bibliographic documentation of the field.

    As regards the European tradition, the NAL library collects works on painting to a study level, but aims to be more comprehensive in the following cases:
    • Works on painters and movements represented in its collections
    • Works on painters who have or had a particular significance for interior design or for their engagement with industry
    • Works on painters influential on the way the arts in general were seen and discussed at any particular period, particularly those associated with movements that encompassed the applied and decorative arts
    • Works on techniques that document major methods of painting practice, methods exemplified in V&A objects; these include illumination, wall painting and fresco, tempera, oil-painting and acrylics.
  • Photography
    The NAL collects to support the V&A’s collection of Photography as Art. It collects to research level works on the history of photography. It collects works about or containing the images of photographers represented in the V&A’s collection, and a restricted number of such works about other photographers, according to their perceived importance in the field.

    Works about the applications of photography to industry, in particular photo-reportage, are collected to research level (see also graphic design).

13. Formats

  • General
    Works are collected in the form of monographs and periodicals; other formats include documentary manuscripts, electronic and audio-visual publications (including videos). It may in future be possible, once a wider choice of format within art publishing becomes available, to state which form, printed or electronic, would usually be preferred by the library. Today, print is usually preferred for any material that relates to its core subjects and research programmes, whereas electronic resources are preferred if they are significant for the information service of the library. On-line subscriptions are usually preferred to CD formats.
  • Sales catalogues
    The catalogues produced by the major auction houses in Europe and North America are added to the NAL’s stock. Others are added to stock when they concern objects that relate to those held in the Museum.
  • Exhibition catalogues
    For the most part, these are treated like monographs and added to stock on the basis of their significance for subjects served by the NAL. The NAL actively seeks out catalogues of exhibitions from a number of galleries; steps are in hand to co-ordinate this activity with the Tate Library and Archive, so that effort is not unnecessarily duplicated.

    By an arrangement with the British Library, British exhibition catalogues received as part of the Legal Deposit scheme which would not normally be individually catalogued by the British Library are passed to the NAL, where they are catalogued to agreed standards and held as a discrete collection on behalf of the British Library. The British Library retains all the published catalogues of some sixty galleries and museums according to a list agreed with the NAL.

  • Periodicals
    Much of the documentation collected by the NAL comes in the form of periodical publications. The range of titles is constantly monitored and compared to that of other libraries in London and beyond, with a view to minimising duplication. New titles are normally added to stock only when the title concerns a core V&A subject, though a decision is always made in the light of the title’s availability in London.
  • Information files
    Ephemera and minor publications that relate to individual artists, designers and craftspeople, or to events or organisations that have significance for the Museum’s core subjects, are kept in Information Files. These are described on the online catalogue in simple records (usually no more than a name, personal or institutional). They also include statements by the makers of objects acquired by the department. This mechanism allows documentation that is not published in the conventional sense of the term to be compiled and made available. Procedures for making up such files are intended to ensure that only material that does not duplicate what is easily available in hard copy or automated format is included.

    The Information Files include material compiled by individuals outside the Museum, the most notable example being the working files of Edward Lucie-Smith, acquired by the library in 1991. Some curatorial departments of the V&A send material for the NAL’s Information Files in order to make publicly available documentation gathered in the course of the management of their collections.

  • Ephemera
    There are twice-yearly trawls of ephemera (16 June and 16 December) carried out by Museum staff to document the design environment of the London metropolitan area. Magazines are also trawled in this way, selection being based on the notoriety of the titles in question. The sampling approach allows titles to be represented in the collection – and thus available for display purposes in Museum galleries – without the drain of resources that a full subscription would entail.
  • Online resources
    An increasing amount of material is available on-line for subscription. Facilities currently subscribed to are listed on the NAL’s website. These include some major reference works, for example the 'Grove Dictionary of Art' and the 'Oxford English Dictionary', and also facilities such as 'Art Sales Index' and 'Design and Applied Arts Index'. The trend in publishing is for journals to offer on-line as well as hard-copy versions, for the time being for a very low cost. In these cases, an on-line version is taken with the hard copy version. Major distributors now offer sets of titles on-line; thus far, sets offered by OUP and others have a very small art and design content, and the cost does not yet justify subscription. The same can be said for major retrospective digital versions of historic titles offered by, for example, JSTOR or IPabout. For the time being, these do not have sufficient subject content for the NAL to consider subscription, though the situation is continually monitored as facilities such as these develop.
  • Trade literature
    The Library builds upon 19th-century acquisitions of trade literature (catalogues of retailers and manufacturers, brochures, promotional literature) by pro-active collecting of contemporary trade literature, to a research level.
  • Documentary manuscripts
    Manuscripts such as diaries, recipe books, inventories, individual letters, small collections of correspondence, are acquired when they are deemed to add significantly to what is known about the areas to which they relate. Larger collections of manuscript material are handled by the V&A’s Archive of Art and Design (AAD). In each case, acquisition is made in close consultation with Museum curators, other interested public collections and with the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

14. Retention and de-accessioning

Most works that enter the NAL join the V&A’s permanent collections. First editions of works are not de-accessioned when a second edition is published. However, some common reference works – directories in particular – may be de-accessioned when a new edition appears, though a number are retained when the contents are considered to have an on-going value. When works appear in translation, the preferred version will be that in the original language, though English language versions will also be collected for core subjects. Damaged works are de-accessioned in cases where it is cheaper to replace the volume in question with a new copy. All works are de-accessioned according to the V&A’s established procedures.

Dr. Rowan Watson, Head of Collection Development
National Art Library
Word & Image Department
Victoria and Albert Museum
May 2004


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