UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The records of visual artists : appraising for acquisition and selection Blinkhorn, Victoria Louise


The responsibility of archivists is to preserve society's documentary heritage. Visual artists contribute to this heritage thorough their creative vision of man and his civilization. Because the archival purview to preserve some representation of the artist's activity is evident, it is necessary to determine, from a theoretical perspective, which part of the artist's output is of archival nature and how archivists may appraise this output for acquisition and selection. This thesis uses published sources of European and North American archival theory, aesthetic philosophy, business, and law and data gathered from interviews with four British Columbian artists to investigate the validity of theoretical appraisal principles for the evaluation of records generated and received by artists. The study concludes that artistic activity is clearly divisible into functional components and productive of many basic record types. Because of the pressures and requirements of the often-conflicting interests of art, business, and law, artists must depend on their records as a basis of security, a means of operating, and a source of memory. These records are archival in nature because they are generated out of a practical activity, constitute an organic accumulation, and are used and then retained for the use of their creator. Except under certain circumstances, the finished work of art is not of archival nature. Consequently, archival repositories do not have the right to preserve works of documentary art. Artists' records can be appraised in accordance with the theoretical principles of archival science. Appraisal results in a decision about acquisition and a decision about selection. Both decisions are based on the archivist's knowledge about the artist's contemporary society, his life, and his activities and records. The result of the first decision will be the acquisition of organic bodies of records representative of their contemporary society, complementary to the primary and secondary sources preserved in the area where the repository acts, and relevant to the acquisition policy of the repository. The second decision will be the selection and preservation of those records considered as having been most essential to the organization, function, security, and memory of the artist's activities.

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