Archive & Collection

CURRENT ARCHIVE AND COLLECTION PROJECT

We are currently working on creating an accessible print collection from our archive of approximately 10,000 prints, which have been collected for over 50 years of studio activity. The collection has had little public visibility within our organization due to it becoming unsustainable in terms of storage, adequate care, and documentation. Our goal is to define the scope of the collection and to curate and develop long-term accessibility to the collection.

The new collection will comprise approximately 1,000 prints spanning Open Studio’s five-decade history. Prints to be retained in the collection will be selected by committees formed to reflect each decade that Open Studio has been in operation and who will review and select prints from each 10-year period. The committees will be composed of two artists who worked with Open Studio during that specific time, a current artist member of Open Studio, Open Studio’s Curator and Collections Manager, and knowledgeable members of the wider art community. We are also working with an Archivist who will catalogue and physically organize this new collection. Open Studio’s Executive Director will oversee the project.

Artworks that are not selected for the collection will first be offered back to the artist [or their estate] who generously donated the work during their time at Open Studio. In select cases, prints may be transitioned into Open Studio’s Sales Program, in agreement with the artist.

We are excited about the possibilities that this project will open up and look forward to the many great discoveries that will come from reviewing the prints for the collection. A reduced, curated collection will allow us to give a greater level of care to the prints in our possession and activate the collection in a way that has not been feasible before. 

To track progress on the current Archive and Collection Project as it develops, follow our dedicated Instagram page: @openstudio_collection.

TIMELINE OF THE ARCHIVE

Open Studio’s archive was instigated in 1971 to collect one ‘Open Studio Proof’ (OSP) of every print produced in the studio. Two or more archive proofs were collected for prints with an edition of 15 or larger. A clause to donate at least one OSP for every print created at Open Studio was included in the contract that the artist signed when becoming involved with the studio as a member, renter, or part of its various public programs. Each print for the archive was labelled as an OSP, given a consecutive “OS number,” and recorded by hand in an archive record book. 

Under this broad scope for archiving and without a formal Collection Management Policy to guide it, the archive grew quickly in size, creating challenges in the storage and staff resources increasingly needed for its care and access. Although different record systems were used over the years, including a digital database in the 2000s, none actively recorded artwork location and movement. This meant that although we have a good notation as to what is held in the archive, we do not have defined physical locations for the prints recorded, condition notes, or digitized visuals to help us identify artworks. 

In 2018, collecting was paused until a sustainable direction for the collection could be established. The last recorded entry for the archive is number 7423. However, due to the multiple editions acquired of many prints and several acquired prints not yet recorded because of a backlog, this number is estimated at closer to 10,000. 

In 2019, Open Studio received a Museums Assistance Program grant from Canadian Heritage to purchase new physical storage and digital equipment to re-house and digitize the archive. Through this grant, Open Studio purchased new archival storage and photographic equipment and created a digital database framework in consultation with McKenzie Art Projects. This project gave more staff access and resources for the collection and enabled the archive exhibition PRESS RECORD to be presented as the first exhibition in 2020 – Open Studio’s 50th anniversary year.

In 2020, a Collections Care Proposal Brief was approved at the AGM to deaccession a large portion of the archive to create a more streamlined collection under a new, mandated scope that better serves Open Studio’s vision and mission and its ability to safeguard such a collection into the future. In 2021, a Collections Management and Development Policy framework and a Collection Care Policy framework were created with McKenzie Art Projects to lay out the guiding principles for the Open Studio Collection moving forward. At the end of 2021, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Open Studio was able to hire a full-time archivist for six months, and in 2022 the project to select artworks for the final collection began.