posted by Christopher Howard
At its May 2010 meeting, the CAA Board of Directors approved a resolution that updates the Standards for Retention and Tenure of Art Historians. Submitted by Anne Collins Goodyear, vice president for publications, the addendum urges academic tenure-and-promotions committees to consider and evaluate museum publications when making their deliberations. Exhibition catalogues, the resolution notes, may be published by an academic press or museum, or in association with a nonacademic press.
The following paragraphs, which are part of the addendum, provide background for the resolution:
During the past ten years, while academic publishing has been shrinking dramatically, museum publishing has flourished, moving to the forefront as the venue for much substantial scholarship in our field.
Museum exhibition and collection catalogues are not, by and large, peer-reviewed in the traditional sense. The long lead times required for blind peer review do not accommodate the tight schedules of most exhibition catalogues, which must appear when shows open. Yet exhibition catalogues do undergo a form of peer review. Though not blind, it is thorough, as the collaborative curatorial teams that produce exhibition catalogues, and museums’ editorial departments and consultants, carefully evaluate the scholarship contained within, striving to ensure that it is accurate and of the highest possible quality.
In the past, one argument lodged against exhibition catalogues has been that the essays can vary in quality. Some essays in exhibition catalogues—at times in the same catalogue—contain original, important scholarship, while others can be included for political reasons, perhaps to secure certain loans or financial contributions essential to the successful mounting of a show. In fact, this situation is not fundamentally different from scholarship published in festschrifts, anthologies, or other non-museum collections of scholarly essays. It is not unusual for some authors in such publications to be included for practical, rather than scholarly, reasons. Yet this does not disqualify every essay in these publications from being considered in tenure decisions.
Helen Evans of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lucy Oakley of the Grey Art Gallery at New York University authored the proposal, with input from the Publications Committee. The Professional Practices Committee, which reviews new and revised Standards and Guidelines, endorsed the proposal, which the board then passed.
The addendum has been added to Standards for Retention and Tenure of Art Historians and joins updates made in 2005 and 2007. CAA encourages you to review all official Standards and Guidelines for professionals in the visual arts.