The artist files community owes a debt to Scott Grant Barker, a respected scholar of early-to-mid-twentieth century Fort Worth art, who has authored or contributed to over twenty-one titles on the topic. During the course of his research, he also has developed what is probably the largest set of artist files on Fort Worth artists. Scott continues to add to his current print files covering about one-hundred artists and his digital files covering approximately two-hundred artists. His digital files include over 100,000 scanned documents and art-related photographs. This rich collection will one day become a part of the artist files collection held at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s research library.
Scott shares his passion for collecting artist ephemera:
I started saving ephemera related to Fort Worth artists about 1985. In 1992, my focus shifted to Fort Worth artists who were active before 1950. I’ve been on the lookout for pre-1950 ephemera since then. I surely do enjoy finding ephemera. Next to art itself, original pieces of ephemera are the best link to the time and place I’m trying to get to. And there is great satisfaction in holding a piece of paper in my hand that was not conceived as a historical document but became one anyway. The trick to finding ephemera is to keep looking. It takes years to assemble an informative assortment of ephemeral items and one never knows where the next piece will come from. So I keep my eyes open all the time.
Scott collects material in a number of categories:
- items that relate to an individual artist
- items that relate to group or periodic exhibitions
- items that relate to major exhibitions in early-day Texas, events such as the Texas Centennial Exposition or the Texas General (artists from Fort Worth were involved in these efforts)
- items that relate to art schools and art teachers
- items that relate to patrons, collectors and their collections
- items that relate to organizations that supported the visual arts in Fort Worth’s early days (organizations such as the Fort Worth Art Association and the Fort Worth Artists Guild)
- artists’ scrapbooks and clipping collections
It’s not often that librarians get a chance to peek into how a researcher manages sets of both digital and print artist files. Like most of us who have been in the digital file management business for a while, we can relate to the necessity of migrating digital files from machine to machine as upgrades happen. In the screenshot below, we see Scott’s approach to accessing various files collected from various computers and other sources. He decided to not merge files from each source.
Withing the Acer laptop, one finds the following set of files:
And within the “Cockrell, Dura” file, we find the following contents: