Monday, September 14, 2009

The prestigious Yale University Art Gallery has been led by Director Jock Reynolds since the late 1990's. His record has set a standard that will be difficult to match in the coming decades. Reynolds, now 61, has doubled the size of the collection which now totals 190,000 objects, re-installed the entire collection in the newly renovated Building designed by Louis Kahn, and managed a 44 million dollar budget during this 12 year plan which will be completed in 2011. While he is affable, charming, and focused, I sensed in our recent interview that he doesn't suffer fools easily. I tried diligently to stay out of this category.

I did promise in a previous issue that I would follow up on some of the questions that many have asked since the Yale Guy Van Rijn Archive of African Art first surfaced as a potentially important tool for curators, collectors, scholars, dealers, and students seeking a resource for research. In emphasizing Yale University's ongoing commitment to the Archive Reynolds stated that contracts have been extended to Van Rijn hired staff members for another two years in order to maintain continuity in resolving some of the problems. Mr. Reynolds also indicated that Yale owns 100 % of the Archive having just purchased Guy Van Rijn's remaining share. Van Rijn remains committed to the Archive and will continue to consult. Reynolds and Van Rijn are addressing the synchronization problems created by trying to maintain a copy in Brussels and New Haven. Mr. Reynolds believes strongly that private funding sources must support this Archive ensuring that the access to the data remain a free resource. I am not a legal expert but I suspect this approach will to some degree insulate Yale from the copyright issue created when a user is making money from data owned and legally protected by a third party. Yale can afford the expense; however, if this data source is as good as I think it is private and public institutions will want to participate.

Mr. Reynolds did not commit himself to any date certain when you will have online access. He also didn't expound on plans to secure the data as it is being compiled from two separate sources. It should be noted that the picture changes somewhat now as Yale owns the Archive. I have no doubt that these problems are being addressed. If we are able to get a preview, I will certainly include that in a future Newsletter and blog. I am excited and hopeful that this resource will be online soon.

With permission I have re-printed from the Yale Archive a brief description of what they will offer.

"The Yale-Van Rijn Photographic Archive is the largest photographic digital database of African art, and is a division of the Department of African Art, established in 2004, at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Archive has been under development by Guy van Rijn, for several decades. In 2001, the project was acquired and funded for Yale by James J. Ross (Yale B.A. 1960). The ultimate goal is to make the Archive accessible online, but at present it is available for general research by appointment only at the Department of African Art at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, or at the Van Rijn Documentation Centre, Brussels, Belgium.
The Yale-van Rijn Photographic Archive comprises images of art from Africa south of the Sahara in collections worldwide. As such it is potentially infinite, but at the moment it includes mainly masks and sculpture and a few other forms in various media, from antiquity to the mid-20th-century and it will continue to grow as the archivist receives new images. Currently there are more than 100,000 images of African art drawn from private and museum collections, dealers, general archives, and the existing body of literature including books, articles, notices, and auction catalogues. The database may be searched by country, cultural group, and many other fields enabling the user to do a specific search. The Yale-GVR Archive may be used for research purposes only. In making these images and their related documentation available to researchers, YUAG’s Department of African Art provides an unparalleled resource for the study of African arts.
The Archivist solicits images from collectors of photographs and/or objects who would like to include their collections in the Archive. It should be noted that Yale makes no claims to authenticity of the objects illustrated (by any definition of the term, authentic), and the inclusion or exclusion of an image for any reason is at the sole discretion of Yale.
The Archive will also include opinions (including those concerning authenticity) in the Archive database submitted by third parties, at Yale's discretion. Yale takes no responsibility for these opinions, and in no way do they reflect an official position of Yale. We expect that this will provide a forum that will be useful to all researchers. In this working phase, we would ask visiting researchers who are using the Archive to exchange their own images and expertise from their fields of study in order to enlarge and refine the Archive and database for future users. "

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