Imperfect History: Curating the Graphic Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library, an exhibition funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Graphic Arts Department, explores the development of the Library’s graphics art collection as it relates to historical and cultural biases within American history.
The Imperfect History digital catalog creatively engages with the exhibition’s theme of (un)conscious bias and multiple viewpoints. Four guest catalogers from the curatorial, art history, and studio art fields have authored descriptions of the same three visual materials from their individual perspective as affected by their discipline. The conceptual and contextual insights about the images are accompanied by corresponding keywords and/or headings of the author’s construction. Records created using rare visual materials national cataloging standards, including subject headings, also comprise the catalog. A traditionally standardized, “objective” process has been made pro-actively subjective and diverse.
The digital catalog further showcases the Imperfect History theme that graphic arts can be viewed from a multiplicity of perspectives and that the curator (or cataloger) is not necessarily the final or only arbiter in deciding an item’s meaning.