Stephen Bury Named New Librarian at the Frick

Posted in resources, the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 4, 2010

From a Frick press release:

The Frick Collection is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Stephen J. Bury to the post of Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian at the Frick Art Reference Library. For the past ten years, he has been at the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom, and one of the world’s greatest research institutions, where he is a Deputy Director and Head of European and American Collections, as well as Maps, Music, and Philatelic Collections. Previously, Dr. Bury was Head of Learning Resources at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, London. Comments Anne Poulet, Director of The Frick Collection, “Dr. Bury brings to this leadership position an exceptional dual perspective. He is both an art historian― who understands first hand the needs of those who teach, research, and curate―as well as an internationally regarded librarian. An active participant on numerous professional commissions as well as dynamic division head of the British Library, he is a great strategic thinker in a rapidly changing field. Stephen Bury has developed a keen understanding in areas of mutual interest to the Frick, among them digitization, collection sharing, storage, and encouraging greater use of new technologies by staff. Furthermore, the nature of the collections he oversees at the British Library, being both European and American, dovetails beautifully with the scope of our holdings and initiatives. With his arrival in May, we know that the Frick Art Reference Library will benefit greatly from Dr. Bury’s insights as well as from the broad connections he has developed through years of highly engaged service and scholarship.”

Adds Dr. Bury, “The Frick Art Reference Library is internationally well-regarded, not just for its rich resources, but for the very proactive approach the institution has taken in light of the changing universe of libraries and the needs of the audiences they serve. The Frick has played a notable role in exploring such important ventures as digitization and collection sharing, and we are of like mind that the future of libraries is an exciting one. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the remarkably talented staff at this venerable research center. At the same time, the post represents a wonderfully appealing opportunity for me to return to an art historical focus, that area of study being at the core of my academic background.”

About Stephen Bury

Dr. Bury joined the British Library in 2000 as Head of Modern English Collections, and was promoted in 2002 to Head of European and American Collections. In a role of ever-increasing responsibility, Bury has overseen a large staff and substantial budgets for library acquisitions and collections development. During his tenure, he has been a driving force behind a number of forward-looking initiatives, from digitization, to collaboration and resource-sharing, to critical and state-of-the-art solutions for storage. His engagement in these issues extends beyond the walls of the British Library. He leads the institution’s involvement on a number of professional bodies, including The European Library and Europeanna, The European Library Management Board & Contacts Group, Conference of European National Libraries/Federation of European Publishers, and the UK National Book Committee. Bury is also the Chair of ARLIS (Art Libraries Society) UK & Ireland National Co-ordination Committee, and is a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Peer Review College.

At the British Library he leads the Mellon-funded 21st Century Curator Project, a program that encourages staff to remain engaged in learning and to take advantage of new technologies entering the field, while helping them pass along traditional skills that are disappearing from the library school curriculum (historical bibliography, paleography, and so forth). Bury also leads the Web Archiving Programme, created to address the fact that many resources today live online and are ephemeral. Without efforts to preserve them, a digital black hole may occur. The selective UK archive is available here.

Dr. Bury comes to the Frick exceptionally sensitive to the needs of the position, given his dual background as a librarian and an art historian. As an undergraduate, Bury studied history at Balliol College, Oxford, and went on to earn advanced degrees in Library and Information Studies at University College, London, and the University of Oxford. Subsequently he completed his master’s degree in Victorian Studies and undertook doctoral studies in Art History at Birkbeck College, London, where he wrote his PhD dissertation on art critic and social thinker John Ruskin. Interested in the practice of making art as well, he taught and lectured through the 1980s and 1990s at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, Royal College of Art, Central St. Martins College of Art & Design, and Camberwell College of Arts. His courses ranged from printmaking to book arts to fine arts. He has supervised PhD candidates at most of these schools as well as been the external examiner of PhDs at the University of Leeds, Goldsmith’s College, and the University of Sheffield. As a curator, Bury has presented some fourteen exhibitions. He organized several shows on artists’ books for the Chelsea College of Art & Design and has also curated for the London Institute Gallery and for the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Dundee. His British Library exhibitions include Translation/Illustration (2000), Iris Murdoch (2002), 1922 (2002, with Colin St. John Wilson), and Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde (2008). Bury has written exhibition catalogues in conjunction with such projects and contributed to numerous other publications. He is a frequent editorial contributor to art journals, and his reviews of exhibitions have appeared in Art Monthly, Print Quarterly, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. He is a former Chair of the Board of Trustees at Matt’s Gallery, London, and of Book Works.

About the Library

The Frick Art Reference Library was founded in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick as a memorial to her father, Henry Clay Frick (whose art and mansion were bequeathed to the public, later becoming The Frick Collection, one of the world’s most treasured house museums). In founding the Library, she vowed to provide a curious and growing public of art researchers with resources as valuable to them as her father’s art collection came to be to the world’s art lovers. The mission of the Library was, and remains, to make available to a broad community of researchers materials for the study of art in the Western tradition from the fourth to the mid-twentieth century. With its emphasis on object-oriented research, the Library amassed a photoarchive that now boasts images of more than one million works of art, many of which are unpublished. The Library owns over 350,000 books, periodicals, online resources, and annotated auction and exhibition catalogues. The collection is unrivaled in the United States, and is one of the world’s most valued art research centers and the most comprehensive resource on the history of collecting and patronage.

Patricia Barnett retired from the chief librarian position in the fall of 2008.

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