There has been increasing attention paid to curriculum-based design materials collections. Generative relationships between the experiments and concerns of contemporary design practice and innovations in materials science and engineering are driving the development of radically new material forms, properties, and processes. New demands for thermal, mechanical, and aesthetic performance, closed-loop cycling, resource and energy efficiency, and equitable production relations influence material industries and become conceptual drivers of contemporary design work. These factors radically alter design and construction processes, as well as exert impacts from nanoscopic to global scales. Libraries supporting art and design programs—notably Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD)—have, and are, creating collections of material samples in order to support the curriculum and research in their institutions.
In 2011, GSD and RISD sought funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to establish a materials collection database and discovery system. Reviewers’ comments from that proposal prompted the organizations to reconsider that approach, and instead organize an international symposium, supported by a National Forum grant that clarified the fundamental issues and challenges, formulated solutions, and promoted the role of libraries in serving material collection curricular and research needs of faculty and students in art, architecture, and design disciplines. The symposium provided a platform on which to promote, test, and share emerging models for materials collections across the world.
Materials Education and Research in Art and Design: A New Role for Libraries, held in June 2013 at RISD, assembled a roster of international keynote speakers, funded fifteen participant librarians and directors from stakeholder institutions, and ultimately gathered nearly one hundred attendees for a multi-day and multi-format event, including a workshop for forty librarians. Speakers, participants, and attendees all communicated the growing need for students in art and design programs to become better educated when selecting and using materials in projects with an eye toward their post-graduate professional life—and, specifically, the need for a centralized information resource. There was also wide acknowledgment of the absence of a resource for material classification and description in design-related fields, unlike those found in materials science and engineering. The existence of such consensus, even among widely varied institutions, provided the basis for an emerging community—loosely knit but united around a common need.
In response to this clear and widespread need, remaining grant funds, paired with funding from GSD-RISD, were used with IMLS’s approval to begin development of a shared online database, work that was completed in 2015 with a functioning beta model of a database that operated at the administrative and cataloger levels. Final revisions of the database, along with plans for Phase II—developing the discovery system—resulted in untenable future developer costs and prompted the project team to consider a new direction. With its strong and proven experience in developing management platforms for object-based collections, GSD-RISD believe CollectionSpace is the right partner for further defining and developing this project to completion.
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design-Rhode Island School of Design (GSD-RISD) materials database project team was introduced to CollectionSpace at a June 2015 series of meetings in Cambridge surrounding the capacity of CollectionSpace to serve Harvard Library needs, including the Materials Collection at the GSD Frances Loeb Library (the RISD Material Resource Librarian was in attendance). Since that time, CollectionSpace staff and GSD-RISD project team members have conducted frequent and regular group teleconferencing meetings to examine CollectionSpace potential for the materials database and for development of a consortium of materials collections. Specifically, CollectionSpace staff have reviewed the GSD written Materials Classification Protocol and its GSD-RISD derivative Database Schema and gained a thorough understanding of the project as both shared and local implementations. With that understanding and the experience of other CollectionSpace client projects, staff believe that a sizable portion of existing CollectionSpace programming can be redeployed for the materials database, requiring few customizations.
Progress to date with CollectionSpace includes the drafting of a Project Overview, Assumptions, and Expectations including Goals, Project Objectives, and Scope of Work.
The shared materials authority will be cloud-hosted and-accessed by multiple institutions, which will facilitate the larger goal of building a consortium. To do this GSD-RISD contracted with a consultant from LYRASIS to define and develop foundational and guiding policies, procedures, and documents to establish and sustain the organizational framework of a consortium of materials collections.
The materials available on this wiki reflect the planning that started in 2011 and has continued through a two-day on site planning retreat held with Mark Pompelia, Visual + Material Resource Librarian, Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design; Ann Whiteside, Librarian/Assistant Dean for Information Services, Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design; Alix Reiskind, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Visual Resources and Materials Collection, Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design; and Johanna Kasubowski, Design Resources Librarian, Visual Resources and Materials Collection, Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design on February 23 and 24th, 2016 in Cambridge, MA.