Blanton Museum curators issue public letter challenging changes to UT’s Fine Arts Library

The Foundry is a new maker space now sharing the main reading room of UT's Fine Arts Library. Photo by Brian Mihealsick.

The controversy surrounding recent changes to the University of Texas’ Fine Arts Library deepened today when curators and staff from the Blanton Museum of Art published a public letter expressing their concern over the recent removal of more than 75,000 books, music scores and bound volumes of periodicals from the UT Fine Arts Library.

The letter is addressed to Douglas Dempster, College of Fine Arts dean, and Lorraine Haricombe, UT vice provost.

Among the Blanton staff signing the letter are Carter Foster, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; Beverly Adams, Curator of Latin American Art, and Rosario I. Granados, Carl & Marilynn Thoma Associate Curator of Spanish Colonial Art.

In the letter, published on saveutlibraries.com, the group of professionals from UT’s art museum write: “Having timely access to the collection of the Fine Arts Library is essential to our mission of providing intellectually rigorous and engaging museum content to our audiences at the University and in the wider community.”

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At issue is the recent removal of the library materials to an off-site location in order to make room for the College of Fine Arts new School of Design and Creative Technologies. The Foundry, a new tech-centered maker space, was also carved out of part of FAL’s main floor reading room.

In its new configuration, the FAL now holds approximately 200,000 items on site while some 60 percent of its collections are housed off site.

The Blanton staff write: “There are striking similarities between our curatorial practice with works of art and the benefits offered by a robust, open-stack library. Just as we periodically enter our storage spaces to re-evaluate in person objects outside of our knowledge areas, and have recently made some surprising discoveries in the process, we glean important insights from books which have fallen out of favor or escaped the notice of current scholars.”

The changes to the library and its on-site holdings have sparked protest from students, staff and faculty since last semester. Last week members of the Save UT Libraries group protested a talk Dempster gave at SXSW EDU.

The issue has attracted attention from the greater arts community too, with many, including artist James Surls, posting statements to Save UT Libraries.com.

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