If you work as an art technician, you are part of a fairly new and growing trade, which wasn’t as prominent twenty years ago, as it is today. I wanted to connect the trends visible in today’s art tech scene into a wider context in order to gain perspective and draw ideas from parallel narratives. Did many female artists work as art technicians thirty, fifty years ago? Have women in other manual trades gone through a similar struggle to ours? Are there other trades that are going through a transformation today to diversify their workforce?
These and similar questions led me to the specialised collections of first, the Women’s Art Library, housed at Goldsmiths Library and to London’s Feminist Library at their old headquarters on Westminster Bridge Road – read about my visit to the later in the following blog post, above.
The Women’s Art Library (WAL) started as an artists’ initiative which has grown into a collection of unique documentation of work by women artists dating back to the 1980s. From slides to exhibition posters, from manifestos to full-colour monographs, WAL houses hundreds of artefacts and ephemera.
I met the collection’s curator and archivist Althea Greenan on a spring afternoon to visit the collection and to talk to Althea about any relevant resources at the library for my project. Althea had led me through the small reading room, into the collection room lined by rows of modern archival filing cabinets; pulling out handwritten notes and feminist exhibition posters from the 80s.
When I had introduced my interests to Althea about female art technicians, she admitted that she wasn’t able to recall specific items in the collection that would be relevant, but remarked that for a while after college, she too, worked as a painter and decorator as it was good money at the time. This personal story brought a smile to my face, but when I left after an hour an a half long conversation, I wasn’t sure if I was going to find relevant literature anywhere else if I hadn’t been able to find anything here.