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Review of SLA-SCC visit to the Getty on March 30, 2023 (with photos!)

  • 1.  Review of SLA-SCC visit to the Getty on March 30, 2023 (with photos!)

    Posted 05-02-2023 18:52
    Edited by David Ballantine 05-02-2023 18:58

    To SLA-SCC members, 

    About a month ago on March 30, 2023, the SLA-SCC Community had a visit to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA. It was a very bright sunny morning with some clouds, with clear views toward Malibu, the ocean, and the metropolitan area. 

    See this video for a panorama looking west toward Malibu: 

    There were about 14 of us in total, including both SLA members and non-members. We were divided into two groups. The first part of the tour was in the Getty Research Library, a modern building designed by the famous architect Richard Meier. The round shapes were meant to foster ideas and collaboration, although it is debated how successful this is in reality. A very beautiful building with a lot of white, holds collections that serve art historians, architects, and art institutions.

    There is a scholars program, with housing and office space. As well, library research grants are made available to researchers. One must be a library reader to use the collections, although it doesn't seem too strict to do so. 

    Here is a list of famous scholars that have studied at the Getty Library:

    Despite being a relatively new building, there are still storage issues just like any library or archive. I believe about 15-20% of the collections are onsite, and the rest are in off-site storage. There are a variety of collections including 900 image collections and mid-century architecture collections which contain photos and blueprints. We felt fortunate to have such a special tour, but they do hold library use tours about once a week for any new readers or researchers learning how to use the library. We visited the vaults and observed some specialists working on a preservation conservation project having to do with old maps as far as we could see. 

    The Getty Research Library does engage in a lot of processing and digitization. They have the Getty Portal which is a consortium of organizations around the world that makes digitized items freely available. In the vaults there was one concrete wall section that had wiring by staff, which was allowed when the building was being constructed. I am interested in film materials myself, and learned that the Getty has a lot of video items in various special collections. It would be cool to explore that more! All in all, the Getty Research Library engages in extensive provenance research for items in their collections, which is very satisfying for all of us librarians, archivists, and information professionals. 

    On the floor we observed that besides a lot of "N" classification books and materials, there are many "non-N" materials such as literature on Buddhism. It is pretty nice to wanter around the floor, but it can be disorienting for some because of the round shapes of the walls. It's easy to get lost. 

    The stacks have earthquake bars to prevent books spilling off the shelves. Here are some "non-N" materials:

    The second half of the tour was in the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), in a different building on the east side of the campus. The GCI is a leader in advancing the field of conservation. They recently completed a major renovation of the science labs. They have an online database of conservation literature called AATA I believe. They also have a scholars program which hosts up to 9 scholars per year. In the GCI they have an extensive travel book collection (maybe literature Bill Bryson?). All told, the GCI hold about 60,000 items, but most are in an annex in off-site storage where staff work on processing and digitizing.

    It clouded over a bit as we approached mid-day:

    There is a plastician collection, donated I believe by a famous East European plastic expert. From why I have known previously about the GCI, they are experts in preserving and understanding different types of materials such as plastics, film, and the chemical structure of these and other types of materials. Speaking of other materials, these might include preserving neon lights and concrete. The general lesson is that we can slow deterioration but we cannot stop it. 

    It was a delight to be at the Getty, among the art, and learn directly from highly experienced professionals. The staff were very welcoming and accommodating. We look forward to containing our relationship with the Getty and future events together. 

    David Ballantine, MLIS
    SLA-SCC President-elect
    Assistant Media Archivist
    Sherman Grinberg Film Library
    Los Angeles, CA