Thursday, 19 March 2015

E H McCormick Research Library Summer Art Archive Internship

This summer I was fortunate enough to be selected as the inaugural E H McCormick Research Library summer Archive intern. I was given the choice of a number of archives that needed accessioning, finally settling on the IKON gallery archive.

The IKON gallery, originally known as ‘The Gallery’ was active in Auckland from 1960-1965, run by Don Wood and Frank Lowe. It was one of the first dealer galleries in New Zealand and exhibited works by a number of leading artists – Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, Don Binney, and Toss Woollaston to name but a few.

The archive itself was varied and consisted of some 12 boxes, in a rather jumbled state. The archive contained everything from newspaper clippings, business receipts, sketches and plans, to personal correspondence between the gallery owners and artists. The sheer quantity of documents was initially overwhelming, especially considering the large amount of metal staples, pins, and paperclips that needed removing and replacing- finally being replaced with more than 800 plastic paper clips. This seemed like an insurmountable challenge! Fortunately for me, I had the invaluable guidance and patience of librarian and archivist Caroline McBride to help me find the way, and together we devised a plan of attack.

We defined categories for each of the types of documents and paraphernalia found in the archive, and I proceeded to work through the boxes identifying what they contained. It was important to decide if the boxes or files within them were organised in any particular way – known as original order. On ascertaining that there was initially an alphabetical order, it was decided to proceed with that, with some small adjustments.

Correspondence was sorted A-Z by artist, then the large quantity of business receipts and documents went into general folders, newspapers were put together, with any notable clippings placed into the A-Z correspondence files. Interestingly, there is also a full card index detailing all purchases and works left with the gallery during its run. This will make for detailed provenance information for many important artworks by leading New Zealand artists.

Due to the huge number of documents this took a significant amount of time, but the end results were well worth the hard work! The IKON gallery archive will be an incredible resource for researchers and the gallery. This is due to its fantastic primary material, with hand written correspondence from major New Zealand artists, and provenance information in the card index.

– Cecilia Lynch, E H McCormick Research Library Summer Intern