When thinking about the Birmingham Museum of Art, one likely envisions the thousands of paintings, sculptures, and more that fill the galleries. However, more reading and research is involved in curating these collections than may initially meet the eye. Birmingham Museum of Art Librarian Lindsey Reynolds manages the Museum’s books and archives so that she may regularly assist students and curators with their various research projects.
Located on the first floor of the Museum, the Clarence B. Hanson Library is one of the most comprehensive art research libraries in the southeastern United States. Click here to learn more about the library and how to make an appointment. Learn more about our Librarian Lindsey Reynolds and her work in our interview below:
Birmingham Museum of Art: What brought you to the Birmingham Museum of Art?
Lindsey Reynolds: I had visited the Museum when I was in library school in Tuscaloosa, so I knew the BMA had a comprehensive library, but when I interviewed for the job, I was impressed with the institution’s commitment to research. I like the size of the BMA; we’re a small enough staff that everyone pitches in and stays in the loop but a large enough institution to boast a strong permanent collection and robust programming.
BMA: Describe your typical day at the BMA. What does being a librarian for an art museum entail?
LR: There really isn’t a typical day for me. Since I’m the only librarian on staff, I get to do a little bit of everything: ordering and cataloging new books, organizing archival materials, helping curators and students with research, and more. This summer, I’ve been working on a stacks shift, which essentially entails rearranging the books on the shelves so that each section has room to grow (and we are growing rapidly!).
BMA: What is the most interesting book you’ve come across here so far?
LR: We have a handwritten diary titled A journal of the Voyage to South Carolina in the Year 1767 that is pretty amazing. It’s part itemized budget and part travelogue. A man named Thomas Griffith wrote it when he journeyed to South Carolina in search of Cherokee Clay for Wedgwood. It’s part of the Elizabeth Chellis Wedgwood Library, which is the largest and most comprehensive special collection in the United States relating to Josiah Wedgwood and his manufacture, English ceramic production in general, and eighteenth-century English culture and society.
BMA: What is your favorite part of your job?
LR: My favorite part is when I get to help someone make connections between the art on the walls upstairs and their lives, whether that’s through a postcard in the archive or an essay by an artist that speaks to their own practice.
BMA: What is on the horizon for the BMA library? Are you planning any projects or changes?
LR: I think the biggest project I have on the horizon is organizing our institutional archives. It’s a daunting project but one I’m looking forward to digging into. I’m also starting to collect artist’s books, which I am very excited about. Artists have a long history of using the book form to create accessible and affordable work. Artist’s books can really be anything – the genre spans one of a kind sculptural objects, limited-edition books, photobooks, zines, and even vinyl records. We already have a few gems, including a beautiful Kara Walker pop-up book and two Lonnie Holley LPs. Hopefully they will be coming soon to a gallery wall near you!
To learn more about Lindsey and the Hanson Library, take a look at her recent feature in B-Metro magazine.