Beyond Books

As a recent addition to the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center I thought my first impressions for the first blog post would be appropriate. There are two things that I immediatly recognize as unique about this place. The first, was that the staff at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum hail from all over, something I wasn’t expecting. I was thinking that my experience of moving across the country to Santa Fe was uncommon – however within the first week I met people from California, New York, Michigan, and even Chicago ( where I moved from ). This diverse group of exceptional people have come together to tell a very particular story about an amazing woman and how she contributed to American Modernism.

The second thing I noticed was the sheer breadth of information, materials, and books about Ms. O’Keeffe. As a the new Librarian, I expected there to be books about her life and work, books about those she influenced and that influenced her, even books about American Modernism. What I wasn’t expecting were the objects, ephemera, and notes that the research center has collected. Between the stones and skulls she used as object studies, to love letters from her to her husband, to her paint brushes – this collection encompasses the wholistic view of one of the more important artists in America.

 

One artifact in particular that instantly caught my attention is a small photograph found within a book that was owned by O’Keeffe. The small image depicts Alfred Steiglitz photographing Georgia O’Keeffe (something that is quite rare). The size and nature of such an image summons a feeling of intimacy with O’Keeffe – realizing that this small object of hers was tucked away in a book, they way I have so often done with memorabilia that is near to me. This singular item speaks to the collection as a whole in a much deeper way. While the materials collected at the Research Center includes an incredible wealth of scholarship – it also gives voice to O’Keeffe’s life in an accessible way. By including such “mundane” artifacts such as snapshots with that intensive research, the picture of who O’Keeffe was as a person, not just an artist, comes into focus. I can’t think of many other institutions that have had the opportunity to investigate and honor an artist by telling their story so completely – and I feel incredibly honored to become part of that story.

 

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Mackenzie Salisbury

Librarian

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center

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