Clark Art Receives $118,000 to Digitize Book Collection

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Clark Art Institute has been awarded a $118,737 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to digitize significant volumes from the Julius S. Held Collection of Rare Books in the Clark library.

These materials will be made available through the library's digital collections interface; the Internet Archive; the Getty Research Portal; the Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth; and the Digital Public Library of America.

Museums for America grants help museums address their key needs or challenges, enabling them to provide better service to their communities. The Clark will digitize 185 of the collection's 283 volumes and enhance cataloging and metadata for the more than 107,000 images in the collection, including a significant number of rare titles and unique volumes dating from the 16th century through the 19th century. The project fulfills the museum's goal of collections stewardship by allowing access to these exceedingly rare volumes, ensuring their physical preservation while facilitating access and knowledge.

“We are delighted to be able to digitize and share this important scholarly collection, including Dr. Held’s annotations, to the broadest possible community,” said Clark Librarian Susan Roeper. “At the same time, we are able to provide for the preservation of the both the physical volumes and the digitized files.”

Art historian Julius S. Held (1905–2002) was renowned internationally as a distinguished scholar of Rubens and Rembrandt. Educated in Europe, Dr. Held joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1937 and gained international recognition through his writing and frequent calls for his consultation and authentication of 16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art.

The Julius S. Held Collection of Rare Books encompasses imprints from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the extraordinary volumes in this collection include illustrations by artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Albrecht Dürer, and Anthony van Dyck. The broad scope of these books include works by Virgil and Ovid, versions of Aesop's fables, and titles on art and art theory, astronomy, religion, natural history, travel, and anatomy in a range of languages. The collection also includes important art histories and early treatises on iconology and emblems. Of note are the approximately 80 books that form the working core of Dr. Held’s scholarly collection. These texts hold Dr. Held’s manuscript annotations and commentary concerning provenance and identification of illustrations present in the texts and appear on the inside of covers, as marginalia, and as end notes on fly leaves.

IMLS received 554 applications for the highly competitive Museums for America grant. Of these, slightly more than one third (196 projects) received funding.

“Millions of Americans visit museums each year,” said IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth. “These federal investments will ultimately help museums deliver enhanced learning experiences, improve collections care, and address community needs.”


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