Rituals of Euphoria and The Jaguar's Children are just two of the 72 fascinating publications from the now-defunct Museum of Primitive Art that I have spent the past academic year cataloging, digitizing, and making available online, thanks to a fellowship I received from Pratt Institute's School of Information.
The Museum of Primitive Art was founded by Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller and opened to the public in 1957. In addition to serving as New York State Governor (1959–1973) and Vice President of the United States (1974–1977), Rockefeller was a passionate collector and advocate for the arts. The Museum of Primitive Art was originally located in a townhouse on West 54th Street and displayed his spectacular personal collection of art from around the world.
Over the next two decades, the Museum of Primitive Art grew under director Robert Goldwater and produced numerous exhibitions and publications. However, after thoughtful consideration, the museum officially closed in 1974. The collection, staff, and library were eventually transferred to The Met and became what today are the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas and the Robert Goldwater Library.
The focus of my internship at Watson Library has been learning about digital project management through digitizing the complete set of Museum of Primitive Art publications held in the Robert Goldwater Library. I've learned how to photograph and edit images using an Atiz BookDrive Pro scanner, how to evaluate and edit library records, and the process of uploading the images and metadata into Watson Library's Digital Collections. I digitized and uploaded 72 catalogues (that's 1,846 pages!), and an additional group of 14 longer publications will be added to the collection within the next few months.
Not only do the Museum of Primitive Art publications provide fascinating information about the history of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, but they also feature fantastic images. I absolutely love the 1950s–1970s design aesthetic (as shown at the top of this post). I also got a kick out of recognizing artworks in the department's galleries from the publications I had digitized. For example, here are some images from the Museum of Primitive Art catalogues next to photos that I took in the museum:
Although the photos in the middle show different objects, I just adore the shared expressions and had to include them!
I hope that you enjoy perusing the publication collection, as well as the many other great materials in the Digital Collections. You can also access image highlights through Watson Library's Pinterest page.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the Museum of Primitive Art and Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, check out this excellent overview from a 2013–14 exhibition that took place here at The Met. And of course, come visit the galleries of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas!
My internship is coming to an end, but it has been an incredible experience to engage with these unique publications and to participate in life at Watson Library! Many thanks to my mentor Robyn Fleming and to all of the kind staff who made my experience so educational and enjoyable. Thank you, all!