The Ministry of Books: Creation and Use of an Online Visual Database for Artists' Books

O'Neill, Maureen
March 2009
International Journal of the Book;2009, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p31
Academic Journal
The production of artists' books is a creative way, through traditional and contemporary methods, that students involved in various specialisms can promote their concepts by self-publishing. A systematic collection of artists' books within the School of Art, Design and Media at the University of Portsmouth began 15 years ago. The books were not archived and were difficult to access by students. It was my belief that the Internet could provide a platform to enable students to retrieve textual and visual information about this collection, whilst ultimately inspiring them to contribute, thus potentially diversifying and democratising the collection. With a growth in the field of artists' books supported by calls for entry for exhibition, book fairs and conferences internationally it seemed important for the students to have the potential to develop appropriate methodologies to embrace and become involved in this re- emerging area with its potential as a medium of expression that allows for multidisciplinary solutions. This paper will outline how Internet access to a visual database can be utilised supporting face-to-face teaching to promote and encourage diversity and democracy in the production of artists' books. It will describe the establishment of 'The Ministry of Books'' website outlining the mechanics and use of the site. How, currently ongoing, it is beginning to act as an aggregated archive and gallery space drawing together reflection and review with, design and production, allowing creativity and knowledge acquisition to establish how we relate to the 'book' and the structures that underpin them. I will discuss my intentions to use it to promote and support the dissemination of artists' books to a wide and varied audience through production, curation and exhibition of works encouraging links and collaboration with other institutions, galleries, bookshops, libraries, and museums who specialise in artists' book collections.


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