Chris Sala, recipient of the New Directions Award, describes her tour of Dutch libraries

At the end of October, Chris Sala, Architecture Bibliographer, attended the Study Tour of the Netherlands sponsored by the International Relations Committee of the Arts Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). She joined them thanks to the Librarian III/New Directions Award.

Five days. Five cities. Twelve libraries. Chris describes a few of the highlights of the tour:

At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam the group was taken into the library’s special vault which houses over 95% of the 900 extant letters by the artist. Written to friends and family, the majority to his brother Theo, they contain many beautiful illustrations and sketches. The museum is in the process of publishing a new edition of these famous documents. This is a dual project in which a large portion of the letters will only be available digitally on the museum’s website.

Another memorable visit in Amsterdam was to the new Public Library designed by Jo Coenen. This beautiful atrium building is much more than just a library. It’s goal is to be a central force in the community, a cultural and community center that includes art exhibitions, a public theater, meeting spaces, literacy and language labs, and even a piano in the lobby for skilled patrons to play. The reference librarians roam their designated areas in stylish uniforms created by a famous Dutch designer. Interestingly, the gay and lesbian collection housed in the library is actually maintained by a private non-profit organization.

At the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven the library has taken a unique approach to incorporating archives into the museum’s public displays. The ongoing Living Archive series alternately offer a new perspective on an exhibition in the museum, shed more light on the background of an exhibition or acquired work, or may pass an opinion on the museum’s strategies. The museum has permanently devoted seven small spaces to this endeavor, thus providing the public with a somewhat unconventional way of accessing documentary sources.

The remaining activities were visits to the Special Collections Library of the University of Amsterdam; the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, a private library whose mission is to promote the Hermetic tradition; the Netherlands Architectuur Intituut Library and the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum Library, both in Rotterdam; the Rijksbureau Kunsthistorische Documentatie and the Peace Palace Library, the largest international law library in the world, both in the Hague; the University Library at Utrecht University, a library with a black interior and red rubber furniture; and hard hat tours of the renovations to the Rijksmueum and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

1 thought on “Chris Sala, recipient of the New Directions Award, describes her tour of Dutch libraries

  1. Barbara Sykes-Austin

    I’d like very much to see a presentation of your tour, perhaps as a Brown Bag (are they doing them anymore?), certainly at some venue within CUL, so that we can know more about the five cities and the twelve libraries. This should be more widely publicized.

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