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Art Archiving, Documentation & Handling

ARTICLE: Creating a Living Legacy #4: First Steps with Assistants

Artist Trust is working to expand the awareness, discussion and management related to archiving and documenting artwork through the support of Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) program. The following information is excerpted from the CALL program’s support materials and provided as a resource for visual artists seeking legacy planning and archiving information.

Provide an overview of your work. It is critical that anyone helping you to create a record-keeping system be knowledgeable about your work. It is also critical that your archive be organized in a way that is logical to you. Take the time to write a guide outlining the series or themes of your artwork so that you can create a structure appropriate for your archive.

Talk through your time line. When working with an Assistant, it can be useful to give them a sense of the timeline of your life and career. This may seem a bit awkward at first; however providing them with this overview is really a useful tool in giving the Assistant a sense of which artworks belong to specific points of your life.

Set realistic and regular goals. Work with your Assistant to set archiving goals; hold scheduled meetings to discuss your progress. Continue to have discussions about prioritizing critical artworks and artworks that can wait. Artwork for an upcoming show for instance, would need immediate documentation.

Have your Assistant keep a work log. The work log is another form of communication with the Assistant. This is especially useful when you are working with a team. This allows you to get a sense of what they are currently working on as well as any questions they might have for you, in addition to tracking timelines for tasks.

Set time aside to answer questions. The Assistant will need time to get to know your work. They will have more questions for you in the beginning. As the project evolves, a process will stabilize, and the goals will become clearer.

Stay involved. Make sure you know everything your Assistant knows.