SPEC Kit 333: Art &Artifact Management · 17
good strategy to improve the management of three-
dimensional objects. Another success to highlight is
integrating processing of these types of materials into
routine workflows.
The challenges and successes all suggest a major
underlying issue. Many of the institutions responding
to this survey have a primary focus on other material
types, particularly books and published materials
and archival collections. Through the challenges and
successes, institutions expressed an understanding
that these materials may require different manage-
ment tools and techniques and are seeking appropri-
ate ways to integrate them into daily practice. When
asked how satisfied respondents were with their man-
agement of art and artifact collections, only one an-
swered 5 “very satisfied.” Nineteen (34%) were some-
what satisfied (4 rating), while the largest number (22,
or 39%) were neutral. Seven (13%) respondents were
somewhat dissatisfied (2 rating) and an equal number
were very dissatisfied (1 rating).
The scope and scale of art and artifact materials held
by the institutions responding to this survey is stun-
ning. The variety and research potential of these ob-
jects provide a glimpse into the rich collections that
may be hidden due to lack of intellectual control. The
survey data points to a lack of consistent practice with-
in institutions. Just as individual institutions have
made different decisions for art and artifact collections
over time and in different circumstances, so does the
library community lack a best practice for the manage-
ment of these collections.
One of the problems identified is that many special
collections do not collect art and artifacts intention-
ally, so they are not given the same priority as printed
and archival materials. This is reflected in comments
such as:
“Ours has been a slap-dash approach and trying to
keep our head above water. Managing art objects
is/has been secondary after traditional book/serial
“We attempt NOT to collect 3-D artifacts, and yet,
we keep getting them. They are useful in exhib-
its and do often provide important historical or
cultural information, but they come with many
problems for a collection whose focus is on 2-D
“Because they are not integral to our mission (ex-
cept occasionally in the University Archives) we
have not made their care a priority in any way.”
Many comments indicated that libraries are strug-
gling to manage this type of material, and seem to be
doing so as lower priority efforts, without a sense that
other institutions shared the same problems.
The survey found that libraries are using a vari-
ety of tools, but looking primarily to library catalogs
and finding aids to provide intellectual access to art
and artifact materials. However, these tools are not
meeting their needs. Only about a third of respon-
dents indicated satisfaction with their strategy for
managing art and artifacts. The survey also docu-
mented a widespread practice of using multiple tools
at a single institution. Moreover, at least one-fifth of
art works and artifact objects are not discoverable
through publicly available discovery systems, and
when information is available it has inadequate levels
of description for discovery and access or is only avail-
able to on-site researchers. Given the extent of art and
artifact materials the survey responses indicate ARL
members hold collectively, a strategy for providing
better intellectual control and public access should
be given attention.
While our community has great expertise in
metadata and standards, we could collaborate with
other communities of practice, particularly muse-
ums, to better understand the needs of these materi-
als. In “Metadata for All: Descriptive Standards and
Metadata Sharing across Libraries, Archives and
Museums,” Elings and Waibel point out that in com-
mon practice, “Materials often receive their descrip-
tions not on the basis of material type, but on the basis
of the availability of local systems to house the de-
scription and the expertise to generate it.” So special
collections that are primarily archives tend to manage
cultural materials (art and artifacts) using EAD and
DACS, while those that are primarily libraries use
MARC and AACR2/RDA. Elings and Waibel sug-
gest reconceptualizing standards as material-specific,
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