CAA News Today

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has released a podcast interview with Susan Blakney, a senior painting conservator and the founder of Westlake Conservators. She traveled to Haiti May 4–8, 2010, to assess the conservation needs of artwork damaged by the January earthquake.

Blakney and two other conservators visited a dozen museums, which she reports have made great strides in retrieving and storing damaged artwork. She describes seeing five hundred paintings that were stacked “in a pile like pancakes,” awaiting conservation care. Haitians are anxious to save their paintings, which are one of their “national loves and largest exports,” she says. However, the country does not have the materials it needs to conserve these integral parts of its social history, she adds. Conservators will be needed for many years to help restore the country’s artwork and to train Haitian artists on conservation techniques. Blakney is certain that the paintings she assessed can be restored to exhibition standards.

Blakney was part of emergency conservation team sent to Haiti by the American Institute for Conservation (a CAA affiliated society) with support from IMLS. These efforts are part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Haitian Cultural Recovery Project, which is also receiving support from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Broadway League. The US Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to the protection of cultural property affected by conflict or natural disasters, is serving as the international coordinator of this conservation effort.

Our three federal cultural agencies—the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—are in danger of underfunding for fiscal year 2011.

As the economic downturn places increasing pressure on arts and educational institutions throughout the country, now is the time to increase, not diminish, federal investment in the arts and humanities through the NEA, NEH, and IMLS. Read on to find out how you can help.

Ask Your Senator to Commit to Increasing NEH Funding

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is circulating a “Dear Colleague Letter” in support of increased funding for the NEH. The letter asks for $232.5 million for the endowment, a $65 million increase above what it received last year, and $71.2 million more that what President Barack Obama has requested for fiscal year 2011.

The deadline for senators to sign onto this letter has been extended to Wednesday, May 12, 2010. Please write your senators today, using online advocacy tools from the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), and ask them to demonstrate their support for the humanities by adding their signature to this letter. You can also contact your senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

The sign-on letter, addressed to Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HA) and Vice Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), and to Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is available on the NHA website.

Support a Budget Increase for the NEA

President Obama suggested a decrease of $6.4 million for the NEA when he proposed his 2011 federal budget. Rather than allocate $161.3 million to the NEA, CAA urges you to contact your legislators to request $180 million for the agency for the next fiscal year.

Since the 1960s, the NEA has assisted artists and organizations in the visual arts, dance, design, music, opera, theater, and more. It has also supported crucial CAA programs, including a $20,000 grant to fund ARTspace at the 2010 Annual Conference in Chicago, and a stimulus grant of $50,000 to save a key staff position.

Help the IMLS Continue Giving Grants to Museums and Libraries

A federal agency that supports all kinds of museums and libraries nationwide, the IMLS received $282.2 million in fiscal year 2010, but now faces a $16.7 million drop in funding. The IMLS’s Office of Museum Services is currently funded at $35.2 million, and the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have joined the NHA to advocate $50 million for the office. Download the AAM issue brief or visit the NHA website to read more about IMLS funding.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) has developed the Protecting Haitian Patrimony (PHP) Initiative to bring together international contributors to assist Haiti with the preservation of Haitian cultural patrimony while respecting local sovereignty. From February 11 to 17, 2010, Brooke Wooldridge, dLOC project coordinator, traveled to Haiti to meet with local leadership and determine the short, medium, and long-term goals for the initiative.

The downloadable PDF report summarizes the current actions taken in regard to the specific patrimonial collections in Haiti. It also provides the background necessary to develop coherent, complementary plans to assist local institutions as they protect the collections and develop resources to preserve and ensure that the future generations will have access to these resources.

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The Frick Art Reference Library in New York has launched two new online resources that are available to scholars free of charge. The first, called the Archives Directory, is a directory that helps those researching the history of collecting art in the United States. The second, the Montias Database, is a collection of inventories from the Dutch Golden Age.

Inge Reist, director for the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting in America, says, “Such a consolidated and easily searched online source as the new Archives Directory will prove invaluable to this deepening field of study and will ensure that researchers can locate primary documents such as letters, bills of sale, and other transaction records that are so essential to reliable scholarship. Indeed, users will more readily find their way to all manner of repositories, from those that are well-known to utterly unexpected caches, which in turn may lead to new discoveries and inspire fresh perspectives.”

Archives Directory

The center’s Archives Directory, the first online database of its kind, consolidates a wealth of information about the location and nature of documents and archives available on American collectors. Until now, scholars have had to comb through multiple websites and, if permitted, sift through analogue data held at library, museum, and university archives to construct their own plans for research—a time-consuming and imprecise process. The new directory is, by contrast, accessible around the clock via the institution’s website. Its use will help scholars worldwide as they approach research projects, guiding them beyond existing publications and standard paths to overlooked repositories, including primary source materials.

The Archives Directory guides researchers to more than 5,000 collections held in more than 300 repositories worldwide, which together have bearing on the lives and activities of more than 1,500 American collectors. Information in the Archives Directory was culled from various online and printed materials ranging from federated and individual online library catalogues to Google Books to published literature in the field.

Contributions of additional information for the directory are welcomed by scholars and researchers, so that it will continue to grow and become an increasingly valued resource.

Montias Database of 17th Century Dutch Art Inventories

The complete Montias Database, cosponsored by the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, offers an unprecedented look at ownership of art in Holland during the seventeenth century. It is a trove of searchable information about buyers, sellers, and prices, including comprehensive information on over 50,000 objects (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, and so forth) listed in nearly 1,300 Amsterdam city inventories. Approximately half was created in preparation for auctions, almost an equal portion was notarial death inventories for estate purposes, and the remaining documents relate to bankruptcy cases. Although the database, which specifically addresses records from 1597 through 1681, is not a complete record of all inventories made in Amsterdam, it contains a vast amount of information that can elucidate patterns of buying, selling, inventorying, and collecting art.

An eminent economist at Yale University, John Michael Montias began recording details of ownership of works of art from inventories held in the Amsterdam municipal archive, or Geementearchief (now known as the Stadsarchief), in the early 1980s as part of his own work on the prices of Dutch paintings at seventeenth-century auctions.

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The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), an international collaboration of educational, research, governmental, and nongovernmental institutions that provides access to electronic collections about the Caribbean, is seeking donations and technical assistance for the recovery and protection of Haiti’s libraries and their valuable historical, governmental, and cultural resources.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has initiated the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, the goal of which is to help the country’s three largest heritage libraries and the National Archives, all of which were damaged in the January 12 earthquake. While the main structures remain standing, one library must be evacuated and most likely demolished and the others suffered significant damage, leaving their collections extremely vulnerable. As a result, significant resources will be needed to protect the already brittle, rare books and documents, now left in piles and covered with debris.

The damaged institutions have indicated they need gloves, masks, archival boxes, and temporary staff to assist in the clean-up. Later, they will need to replace broken shelving, repair or replace damaged electronic equipment, and provide more advanced restoration for many of the rarest books and documents.

Laura Probst, dean of FIU Libraries and a dLOC executive committee member, said protecting the historical documents is crucial in the earthquake’s aftermath.

“The collections in these archives represent the collective memory of the Haitian people, their culture, and Haiti’s role in the history of the western hemisphere and the world,” Probst said. “With this initiative we seek to preserve these invaluable resources for Haiti’s future, and for our own.”

FIU has a longstanding partnership with Haiti’s libraries and the National Archives through the Digital Library of the Caribbean and is one of the founding partners and administrators of dLOC, along with the University of Florida and the University of the Virgin Islands.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean’s operations are run out of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at FIU. Brooke Wooldridge, coordinator of dLOC at FIU, will be traveling to Haiti this week to assist the libraries and archives in documenting their needs and planning for the next phases of their recovery.

The Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative at first will channel resources to four institutions in Port-au-Prince:

  • Archives Nationales d’Haïti houses both civil and state records, including births, marriage and death certificates, documentation of social works, civil governance and records of the Office of the President, and most government ministries
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit was founded in 1873 by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit. The library holds resources documenting the history of Haiti, French colonization, slavery, and emancipation, and 20th Century records, as well as newspapers and periodicals
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne was founded in 1912 by the Christian Brothers. It served as depository-library for Haitian imprints and holds titles not even available in the National Library. It also holds one of the most significant collections of Haitian newspapers
  • Bibliothèque National d’Haïti was established in 1940 and also serves as a public library providing resources, study space, and research support. It has a small but significant collection of rare books, manuscripts, and newspapers

For more information or to contribute to the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, please visit the dLOC website or call dLOC at 305-348-3008.

The text was published earlier today on the website of Florida International University (FIU) and is reprinted here with permission by

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The following letter comes from Brooke Wooldridge of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC). A cooperative digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean, dLOC provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical, and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections.

There has been significant confusion as to the state of the four main patrimonial libraries in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Based on information that I have received from the Digital Library of the Caribbean partner libraries in Haiti, all four of the following library buildings are standing:

  • Archives nationales d’Haïti
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit / San Martial [though the collection will need to be evacuated, as the building cannot be salvaged]
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne / Saint Louis de Gonzague
  • Bibliothèque nationale d’Haïti

Importantly, the library at Saint Louis de Gonzague (FIC) was NOT destroyed. The reporter that stated the library had fallen was incorrect.

According to the director of the National Library, Mme. Francoise Thybulle, the structures must be inspected before the local staff can assess the situation and prepare detailed plans that will certainly ask for international assistance. While the buildings are standing, this does not diminish what will be the very real need for assistance once the local leadership is able to assess the situation. All of the library directors have asked that interested parties work together to help preserve the collections [and] bring these libraries/archives back into service.

Many institutions and individuals have expressed an interest in supporting the Haitian libraries/archives as they begin to rebuild. The outpouring of support and interest for the preservation of Haitian patrimony is unprecedented. Many of you are already in contact with colleagues regarding ways to help. I am trying to serve as a clearinghouse for the Haitian libraries of the different people, institutions or groups that would like to offer support to the libraries. Once I have feedback from the partner libraries in Haiti, I will share a working document of the projects I am aware of and an online survey for interested individuals to complete via Feel free to contact me personally at or preferably via the dLOC Facebook Group if you are already planning a project locally.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has been working with partners in Haiti since it began in 2004. The National Archives in Haiti was a founding member of dLOC, and in the last few years we have developed strong relationships with both the National Library and the Fathers of the Holy Spirit (San Martial) Library. As more information becomes available from the local leadership, I will share it as widely as possible. I have been hesitant to send a large response until now because of the many conflicting reports. This information is confirmed, and comes from the directors of each library/archive.

As the many researchers that have worked in these four libraries know, their directors are completely dedicated to the preservation of their national patrimonial collections. All four have been fighting to preserve these collections for decades, and I am confident with support from the international community these collections will be preserved and accessible for many years to come.

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While most news updates in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12 are rightly focused on rescue efforts, information about losses of the country’s artistic, architectural, and cultural life have begun surfacing.

A report from the Rutland Herald, published a few days after the quake, told us about the death of Flo McGarrell, a thirty-five-year-old artist who had been the director of FOSAJ, a nonprofit art center in Jacmel, a French colonial town in southern Haiti.

The Biblical murals at the Cathedrale of Sainte Trinite (also known as the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral) by some of Haiti’s best-known artists “are now largely dust,” according to Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald. The Centre d’Art, founded in the 1940s by a group of Haitian artists and writers in collaboration with an American educator, is badly damaged as well, and the Culture Creation Foundation has lost its offices and eighteen years of work.

Clark details other significant losses, including the private collections of Carmel Delatour, who herself perished in the quake, and Georges Nader. Nader and his wife survived, but hundreds of paintings by Philomé Obin and Hector Hyppolite, among many other artists, did not. About 100 of his 15,000 works were salvaged from the Musée d’Art Nader, which was part of the collector’s home. (Other sources number 50 surviving works from a 12,000 piece collection.) There is some good news: his son’s Nader Gallery in nearby Pétionville was barely touched.

Clark also reports that a Quebec-based Haitian critic and curator, Gerald Alexis, is working to mobilize arts groups to help preserve surviving works, and the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa, which has a large collection of Haitian art, has established a relief fund. In addition, the Haitian government has deputized Daniel Elie, a former minister of culture, to conduct a nationwide inventory.

For the Wall Street Journal, Pooja Bhatia describes the loss of the Sacre Coeur church, including its stained-glass windows, as well as the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. She also provides a biography of Nader and an account of the Haitian art scene before and after the disaster. Bhatia notes that none of his works was insured.

Marc Lacey of the New York Times mentions the destruction of the Supreme Court building and the National Palace, a French Renaissance–style building that was home the Haiti’s president. Although no permanent collection of art and artifacts were housed there, the status of works in the ceremonial rooms is unknown. Some believe the collections in the nearby National Museum, which was built underground, survived, and the contents of the National Archives appear to have fared well.

Because of continuously unstable government situations, Lacy writes, “private groups and individuals had become some of the most important protectors of the country’s treasures. Many of the country’s most valuable historical texts, for instance, were owned by individuals, and preserved at their homes—rather than under glass or in wood-walled libraries as they might have been in Washington or other moneyed capitals.” The reporter encountered a sculptor, Patrick Vilaire, who was strategizing on how to protect art and books in private collection from looting. Vilaire said, “The dead are dead, we know that. But if you don’t have the memory of the past, the rest of us can’t continue living.”

UNESCO reports that the National History Park, an early-nineteenth-century complex in northern Haiti made up of the Palace of Sans Souci, buildings at Ramiers, and the Citadel, was probably spared. However, the colonial town of Jacmel in the south has witnessed the collapse of many buildings.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has assembled a Haiti Steering Committee to help formulate and guide the assistance and rescue effort of cultural heritage in the country, to begin after humanitarian rescue operations conclude. Gustavo A. Araoz, ICOMOS president, writes:

ICOMOS has assessed the situation and considers it impractical, perhaps even insensitive, to send team that will further tax the scarce local ability to provide food, shelter, medical attention and other basic services, especially while our Haitian colleagues and all the Haitian nation are still struggling for sheer survival while dealing with personal tragedies, loss of family and the wholesale destruction of their homes…. At this time, our efforts are focused on planning and preparing the mobilization process and all its logistics, on the field work methodology, and on the composition and training of the international and multidisciplinary volunteer teams in order that they be ready to be deployed as soon as the go-ahead to do so is given. It is important that this work be centralized in ICOMOS to ensure uniformity in the field evaluations and avoid redundancy.

Katherine Slick, executive director of US/ICOMOS, has announced that her organization has set up a fund to receive tax-deductible donations to support these efforts. Checks may be made out to US/ICOMOS-Haiti Recovery and mailed to: US/ICOMOS, Ste. 331, 401 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. An easy method to make your donation online will be set up soon on the US/ICOMOS website.

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In 2008 the National Arts Index fell 4.2 points to a score of 98.4, reveals Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit arts group. This means, among other things, that charitable giving and attendance at larger cultural institutions have declined, even as the number of artists and arts-related businesses grew.

Other findings from the index tell us that nonprofit arts organizations expanded from 73,000 to 104,000 between 1998 and 2008, but a third of them failed to balance their budgets. Also, demand for the arts has been mixed. Although millions of Americans attended concerts, plays, and museum exhibitions last year, the overall percentage of those who participate in such activities, compared to the total population, is decreasing. The good news is that those who create art, whether that’s making music, taking photographs, or drawing, is up. The demand for arts education is also strong.

Those involved in the National Arts Index herald its usefulness in shaping the future of the arts in the United States. “As with key business measures like the Dow or the GDP, we now have a way to measure the health of the arts in America,” said Albert Chao, a member of the Business Committee for the Arts, a business leadership program of Americans for the Arts. To that end, the Kresge Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant to Americans for the Arts to support that vision.

Read more about the index on the PR Newswire. The Americans for the Arts website has more detailed information, as well as PDF downloads of a detailed summary and the full report. There is also discussion and opinions on the organization’s blog.

Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage, Research


It has been a difficult night. Many of us are in a state of shock or more fittingly in disbelief. As a business that prides itself in keeping the rich culture of Haiti alive in Philadelphia, I and the Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia (HPP) send our deepest and most sincere condolences to our Haitian family in our area and around the world.

We have secured a private jumbo jet to transport supplies to Haiti, which is leaving in the next 24–48 hours. We are in need of doctors, nurses, and donations to go to Haiti in order to provide medical care. Vivant Art Collection and HPP is currently coordinating with the Haitian Coalition of Philadelphia, the Haitian Clergy of Philadelphia, Beyond Borders, the Mayor’s Office, the Temple Haitian Student Association, the University of Pennsylvania Haitian Student Association, Congressman Brady’s office, the Philadelphia Young Democrats, political officials, and other Haitian organizations in the surrounding area to devise a plan to provide assistance to Haiti. Frequent updates will be made to and, so please check back often. In the meantime, if you wish to provide assistance we urge you to do the following:

  • Make a monetary donation to Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia to the Haitian Relief Fund via Paypal. All funds will go toward purchasing items that must be bought in Haiti to defray shipping cost, as well as medical supplies
  • Purchase or bring cots and tents that will be instrumental in providing temporary shelter to those who have been displaced
  • Medical supplies such as band aids, alcohol, peroxide, etc.
  • Water and nonperishable food items
  • Generators and industrial supplies for building will be needed for rebuilding
  • Supplies for children such as diapers, baby clothes, wipes, and bottles are greatly need as well
  • Call elected officials in your area and ask them to partner with HPP

Current Drop Off Sites

The Office of State Senator Leanna M. Washington
1555-A Wadsworth Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19150

The Office of State Representative Vanessa Brown
4706 Westminster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Vivant Art Collections (monetary donations and medical supplies only)
60 North 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

For further information on how to help, please call Yve-Car Momperousse, board chair, at 973-280-2307 or Florcy Morisset, community development chair, at 310-612-4636. You can also send an email to or

Press contact: Please call Alain Joinville, public-relations chair, at 215-287-7373 to coordinate interviews.

Moving forward,

Florcy Morisset
Vivant Art Collection

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The horrifying news about the earthquake in from Haiti give all indications of major devastation and loss. Once the immediate human relief effort is over, I call on all International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to come together in solidarity to help in whatever way we can with the heritage recovery process. It is the right time now to identify individual ICOMOS members and groups of members who would be willing to form part of volunteer teams to be deployed to Haiti as needed when the time comes and the heritage needs are manifested by our Haitian colleagues. For that reason, I ask all National and International Committees to circulate this letter to their full membership. Anyone interested in considering to be a volunteer should drop me a line at and let me know who you are so that we may keep you informed about the opportunities that arise as we learn more about the situation.

For those national Committees from countries with disaster recovery experience, we also ask that you urge your government and other national institutions to be generous with their assistance.

For me personally, Haiti is a special place where I began my professional conservation life. It was at the Citadelle and later at the Palais de Sans-Souci in Cap Haitien that I had my very first projects as head of the OAS heritage assistance mission after graduation. I know the Haitians to be a good people, possessing great dignity and generosity while living amid extreme poverty.

For this reason, I put my own name down as the first volunteer to assist in whatever way I can.

Thanks to all,

Gustavo Araoz
ICOMOS Presiden

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