The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California, is fairly well known even to people who are not involved with art and museums. An organizational "cousin" of the Museum appears likely to become even better known to book and paper conservators in the next few years by making the literature of conservation accessible online. This will not be a small effort, because the Getty Trust does not do things halfway.
The Getty Trust is an operating trust which, unlike a grant-making foundation, is obliged to spend yearly 4¼%--sixty million dollars--of the market value of its billion-dollar endowment on activities it develops and operates. The Getty Museum in Malibu is one activity. Four others are planned: The Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, the Getty Conservation Institute, the new Getty Museum (there will be two of them), and the Center for Education in the Arts.
Together these activities, in the words of a recent news release, "provide a unique, international opportunity to integrate diverse perspectives, disciplines and resources." One way in which they plan to "integrate diverse perspectives," etc., is to develop an information system dealing with artists, objects, publications, photographs, and conservation, among other things. Their conservation program (presumably intended to be carried out mostly by the Getty Conservation Institute) is one of the critical components that would be required in a final system. Other critical components are given in a list. One is a thesaurus, four are projects to develop data bases (of the literature of art, of ancient art, of art objects and indexes to photo libraries), and one is AATA; the plan is to put Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts online.
With AATA online, anyone with access to the right computers could do literature searches by subject, author and whatever other keys would be provided. Computer terminals would presumably be located not only in museums but in research libraries and major archives as well--at least in those that had conservation facilities, let us hope. Local access facilities would probably be provided by the local organization. This would facilitate research by saving time and enabling people to build on previous work--providing the references have been put into AATA in the first place. Much of the literature that is central to conservation of books and archival records has not found its way into AATA yet, either because it predates AATA's coverage of this field, or because there are too few abstracters for the amount of literature to be covered. Readers who would like to volunteer to cover part of the literature of book or paper conservation can contact AATA, c/o New York University, Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, 14 East 78th St., New York, NY 10021.
The same news release or information sheet referred to above goes on to say:
"This project [The Getty Conservation Information Project], directed by Gerald Hoepfner, Executive Director of the Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory and based in the WRACL's facilities in Williamstown, MA, represents the developmental stage of the Getty Conservation Institute's Information Program. It is a two-year project to research the information needs of the conservation field and the potential design of a computerized data system to meet those needs. During its first year, the project will work with and through existing conservation organizations and information systems to review current resource materials--their availability, formats, use and value. The project's methodology will include bibliographic reviews, written surveys, in-depth interviews with professionals at all levels of the field, and site visits to major conservation laboratories, research and education centers in the U.S. and abroad.
"Based on the resulting statistics, the second year of the project will focus on the development of several advisory committees composed of conservators, scientists, bibliographers and programmers experienced in specialized areas of conservation, research or bibliographic notation. Working with the Trust's technological consultants, Online Computer Systems, Inc., these committees will be called upon to assist in the development of a recommended bibliographic format, and to evaluate other variables required in building a viable data base for eventual implementation by the Getty Conservation Institute."
For more information, see the May AIC Newsletter or contact:
The J. P. Getty Trust
1875 Century Park E.
Suite 2300 Los Angeles, CA 90067(213/277-9188)
225 South Street
Williamstown, MA 01267(413/458-5742)