Arts Management students tour Bywaters Special Collections

I have the pleasure of working with the International Arts Management graduate students here in Meadow’s Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship (AMAE) division. They represent a diverse mix of academic backgrounds and nationalities – coming out of film, theater, visual art, performing arts, or humanities backgrounds and originating from the United States, Europe, Canada, South America, Central America, Asia, and Australia.  These students are in Dallas only for the first semester of their program before traveling to study at HEC Montreal and SDA Bocconi in Milan with a two-week stopover in Bogota, Columbia.  Taking in everything they can from every place they study, they are obviously determined to gain a wide variety of experiences, and their visit to Hamon Arts Library was no different.
When this fall’s group of students came to the library to have the annual orientation, they were a very inquisitive group, asking a lot of questions and showing interest in everything.  When I mentioned that our library has limited access materials and that those are different than special collections, they immediately wanted to know about our archival materials. They wanted to know what special collections are, how you access them, and how they are managed.  When I offered to coordinate a visit for them to our Bywaters Special Collections, they immediately jumped at the chance.  Following are some images from their visit, a recounting of what they learned about special collections, and some of our students’ responses.

Megan Heuer, Communications Arts Librarian

“I really enjoyed learning about Bywaters Special Collection and the work that the archivists do. The archivists’ enthusiasm for the work that they do was really contagious and it was so exciting to see some really important items from history!”

Linda Pitt, MMIAM ’17

Tour of the Bywaters Special Collections

Dr. Sam Ratcliffe and Ellen Buie Niewyk speaking to AMAE students

To introduce the tour, Dr. Sam Ratcliffe, Head of Bywaters Special Collections (BSC), described the nature of the holdings, which represent a wide array of arts disciplines, and how they are acquired. Ellen Buie Niewyk also elaborated on Dr. Ratcliffe’s explanation of how these holdings are shared with researchers and the public. BSC’s holdings are discoverable through finding aids on Texas Archival Resources Online and in SMU’s Digital Collections. In addition, she also described the practice of processing a collection. This entails retaining the original order of materials as much as possible, and when necessary, rehousing certain items. One method of rehousing is applying archival matting, and as an example of this process, Ellen showed a letter from Georgia O’Keeffe to Jerry Bywaters – an item which intrigued the students.

“Thank you for having organized the tour! It was awesome! The archivists were really nice and so helpful in explaining everything. I think my favourite part were the letters, I loved the one by Georgia O’Keeffe. I wish we could have read more letters from famous people. And it was also really interesting to hear about how they get the objects through donations and all the work they do to correctly identify and catalogue them.”

Anna Aglietta, MMIAM ’17

Explaining that Bywaters’ holdings are also in public exhibitions, Ellen cited the Meadows Museum’s recently concluded shows on two Texas women artists and, the reproductions of works by former SMU faculty, DeForrest Judd, on display on the second floor of Hamon. The Meadows’ dean’s suite and the hallway between Taubman Atrium and Hamon, also have reproductions of holdings.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s letter to Jerry Bywaters

BSC’s archivist, Emily Grubbs discussed her recent work on a forthcoming online exhibition for Google Cultural Institute documenting the career of Dallas sculptor, Octavio Medellin. The students were able to view examples of the sculptor’s work in BSC, which are his first experiments with fused glass. Emily concluded the session by sharing one of her main projects with the students – the McCord/Renshaw Collection on the Performing Arts which, of all of the collections in BSC, is the largest. Students got to see early 20th-century Dallas Symphony Orchestra programs, composers’ autographs from the papers of longtime SMU music professor and administrator, Paul van Katwijk, and a first edition of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Octavio Medellin’s first experiments with fused glass

“Sam, Ellen, Emily, and Pamela were incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring. I know several students walked away not only with a tour, but inspiration for their life pursuits, topic research, and overall appreciation for the archives exposure. Learning about their critical role in regards to history and their relationship with arts managers was seamlessly offered. What fantastic resources and I look forward to more connection in regards to research. A wonderful staff! For me personally, it is breathtaking to see and touch one of Beethoven’s original 9th symphonies, or see the original Oscar award cards for Humphrey Bogart. What treasures they have there! All should know and I feel privileged to have experienced it.”

Arianna Sikorski, MMIAM ’17

Throughout the class’s visit, BSC staff emphasized the research value of these holdings, which are used by students and faculty as well as by North Texas area museum staff, Texas art collectors, and musicians.  The students responded with great interest and enthusiasm, and extended their visit to Bywaters Special Collections an extra hour past the scheduled session.


Thank you to the Bywaters Special Collections staff and Megan Heuer, Communications Arts Librarian, for contributing to this post!

Images courtesy of Pam Pagels, Music and Film Studies Librarian.

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