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Ricker Library of Architecture & Art Fall 2020 Newsletter
Librarian's corner

It goes without saying that 2020 has been quite a year for everyone, and Ricker Library of Architecture and Art has had its own challenges to navigate, both unique to Ricker and also in light of worldwide events. 2020 saw the following:

  • On January 23th, we gathered to celebrate the life of Chris Quinn, beloved assistant librarian at Ricker
  • In March, we closed to the public and Ricker staff began to work remotely, and adjusted our services to be predominantly administered online. We started offering chat reference, and invested in electronic resources wherever possible
  • Over the summer, we developed a set of Anti-Racist Commitments, as well as the #FromMarginToCenter Initiative to ensure that we were championing diversity, equity, and inclusion while holding ourselves accountable
  • We developed plans for how to offer services and resources for 2020/2021. We developed protocols for how our staff can safely work onsite, and began to offer in-person appointments for individuals who need to consult the print collections
  • We invested in a camera setup to photograph and film books from our collection to embed in instruction and outreach (several videos are also embedded here)

While our physical spaces remain closed, we are fundamentally rethinking how we work with our constituents during this time, expanding our digital collections and services. However, our commitment to collecting the highest quality materials that encompass art and architecture remains unwavering. Please keep reading for a selection of news and events that gives you a picture of what we’ve been up to this year. -Emilee Mathews, Head of Ricker Library

Meet Some Graduate Assistants and Hourlies at Ricker Library
Kou Chery (they/them), Graduate Assistant at Ricker Library 
Kou Chery (they/them), Graduate Assistant at Ricker Library 

We’d like to take an opportunity to highlight a few of the graduate students who are working at Ricker this year.  

Kou Chery started as a graduate assistant at Ricker in August, 2020. They come to us from the University of Indianapolis where they majored in Art History and English, and their interest in libraries center on community outreach. 

Kou summed up their experience at Ricker this way:  “Working at Ricker has taught me that we all have a role in this current era of information sharing. Allowing underrepresented people to create resources that center their identities sets a powerful precedent for institutional change.  Under the leadership of Emilee Mathews, our team created a supportive environment that consistently affirms diverse perspectives. My work at Ricker has focused on decolonizing the artistic canon and it was through this work that I was able to expand both my vocabulary and my understanding of the conversations being had in the field.”

So far, Kou has made major contributions to Ricker, from their Pan-Africanism guide, to Afrocentric Architecture (coming soon), and orchestrated our Occultist October social media campaign.

 Soumya Dasgupta, Graduate Hourly at Ricker Library
 Soumya Dasgupta, Graduate Hourly at Ricker Library

Soumya Dasgupta is a Ph.D. candidate in Architecture (History and Theory) in the Illinois School of Architecture and has a Masters in Urban Design from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. His research interests include postcolonial urban geographies, urban informality, neoliberalism, technology, Global South, and South Asia. Soumya has been working on bibliographies regarding postcolonial theory, neoliberalism, and how they apply to architectural studies. He had this to say about his work at Ricker thus far: "As an international student and a person of color in the United States, I am excited to be part of Ricker Library's initiative towards a more inclusive and diverse architecture library."

Lijiang Fu, Graduate Hourly at Ricker Library 
Lijiang Fu, Graduate Hourly at Ricker Library 

Lijiang Fu is a first year MFA student in the Industrial Design program, who also obtained her bachelor's degree in industrial design and art history here at Illinois. She brings passion for and experience in inclusive design, saying that "Inclusiveness should not be a label to stand out after a design, but rather an essential indicator that designers should consider from the very beginning of the design process." At Ricker, she has been working on identifying inclusive design resources and case studies to help fellow students learn more about the topic and integrate these approaches into their design work.  “I have had a wonderful working and studying experience at the Ricker Library. Through the research, I gained a new and deeper understanding of the whole thing of designing for people with disabilities and also reflected on some of my previous design projects.” Ricker has benefitted from her expertise in inclusive design, and has strengthened our design resources in the process.

A Couple New Vault Books

Le Corbusier. Salubra Le Corbusier. Basel?: Salubra, 1959. Please note, video only playable in browser.

This book is a series of wallpaper samples by Le Corbusier, originally commissioned by the company Salubra in 1932. Le Corbusier not only designed samples for this book, but also experimented with color theory and composition through the samples. The 1959 edition is larger, more colorful, and includes notes and sketches for how the architect envisioned the wallpaper to be used. It is interesting and useful in the information it presents, while being a fascinating design object in its own right. It will be very useful for architecture students throughout the curriculum. Thank you those who donated to the Ricker Library Fund which was used to purchase this magnificent book.


Brown, J. H. Brown’s kleurvisioenen : met een woord ter aanwijzing en verklaring. Leeuwarden: Hugo Suringar, 1866. Please note, video only playable in browser.

This rare first edition from 1866 has incredibly compelling imagery that was created over 150 years ago, but looks as fresh as it has been created today. With the multiple benefits of appealing to artists and designers, providing a primary source lens to 19
th century thought, combining art and science through optics, adding to print culture examples, and fleshing out the collection’s strengths, this item was absolutely critical to add to the collection. Head librarian Emilee showed the potential purchase to several faculty and everyone was extremely excited about showing it to their students. This was acquired through the Anthony J. Petullo Endowed Library fund.

Ricker Library Partners with Art & Design for Virtual Events
Co-VID(s) Film Series 
Co-VID(s) Film Series 

Shortly after the pandemic forced Ricker Library to close to the public and its staff to work remotely, head librarian Emilee began to brainstorm ways to foster community, and reached out to several faculty in the School of Art & Design and curators at Krannert Art Museum (KAM). “We came up with the Co-VIDs film series - Co, meaning together, and 'vids,' a slang term for videos. Of course it is a play on the name of the pandemic. We weren’t attempting to make light of the pandemic, which of course has killed millions of people and gravely affected many other people’s lives, but rather to emphasize the need to come together out of forced isolation to reflect on current events with our intellectual community.” The films, chosen out of those which had public performance rights licenses, were nominated based on how they reflected current circumstances. Ryan Griffis, associate professor in the School of Art & Design who attended most of the series, said, “It was a pleasure to participate and be part of these collective experiences in this moment.”

 Event flier for "Contemporary Landscape Photography and the Black Female Figure
 Event flier for "Contemporary Landscape Photography and the Black Female Figure

In fall, we partnered with the Modern Art Colloquium to host Bridget R. Cooks for a lecture on African American women photographers. Cooks is Associate Professor of Art History and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on African American artists, Black visual culture, and museum criticism. She is author of the book Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). Cooks has a forthcoming exhibition The Black Index. See here for an upcoming online event with several artists in the exhibtion in conversation.

Art History Department chair Terri Weissman praised the event, saying that “The lecture challenged attendees to see Black women in landscape imagery as active future-oriented agents of power rather than as laborers or mothers, which is what much landscape imagery from the past has done.” 

We look forward to finding ever more impactful ways to connect with our community.

International Collection Expansion

Over the summer, head librarian Emilee worked to expand the representation of international collections in Ricker Library, starting with Latin American materials. She worked with Howard Karno books, a well known vendor of Latin American materials who specialize in art and architecture. Emilee worked with Antonio Sotomayor, Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean studies to ensure that the new collection emphasis dovetailed with larger collection patterns. Sotomayor said, “With nearly one million volumes, the Latin American and Caribbean collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library is among the largest and most comprehensive collections in the nation. Our collection has materials from incunabula on Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the “New World” from the 1490s (with amazing iconography) to the complete collection of posters from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The new acquisition plans to comprehensively collect material on art and architecture will definitely strengthen the collection and the contributions to the field by sustaining excellent teaching and fostering cutting-edge research.”

Aaron Brakke, assistant professor in the Illinois School of Architecture said about the new initiative that “I am delighted with the work that Emilee Mathews has done to acquire publications that document the work of contemporary Latin American designers and architects. The Ricker Library now has books that provide critical documentation of the changing conditions of urban spaces where architectural projects have been used as catalysts to promote new possibilities for social exchange. Not only is the content of these publications relevant for students and scholars interested in the global South, the visual design and materials of the books from boutique publishing houses, such as Mesa Editors, are exquisite.”

Work is underway to expand collecting art and architecture materials from Africa as well. Stay tuned for collection highlights in the next newsletter as materials begin to arrive and are catalogued.

Ricker Library works with NOMAS Students in Architecture

In October 2020, Ricker Library had the chance to help twenty students virtually attend the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference. Ricker partnered with Dean of Libraries John Wilkin to co-sponsor the students’ attendance. Head librarian Emilee used the Albert H. Nemoede Endowment, because “I felt that the Nemoede fund would have great symbolic weight for this investment in our students. Nemoede was an alumnus of the School of Architecture, went into practice, and tought architecture at Wright Community College. He was well known for caring deeply about his students. That I can honor his memory by doing something so student centered is extremely satisfying to me.” Ricker will additionally use the NOMA conference content for collection development.

Ricker worked with the leadership of the NOMA Student Chapter at ISoA to organize student participation for the event, and has been working towards supporting the students in their research as well.  NOMAS President Musa Muhammad had this to say about how Ricker has worked with the chapter: “Inspired by the onset of global unrest due to police brutality and continuous social inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, NOMAS created a list of goals and demands for the Illinois School of Architecture to not only create a more equitable and sensitive educational experience for all members of its community, but to also challenge and change the manner in which Architecture is taught and conceived here. Ricker Library has been a crucial support for us throughout this process; Ricker funded a significant number of students’ participation in this year’s NOMA conference and has helped us realize (or if not fully realize, then at least helped set the foundation for) many of our goals. They have expanded and continue to expand the library’s collections to include architects and cultures often ignored by the main discourse, which is a central piece in this puzzle. This will allow students to expand their catalog of sources and precedents and compel professors to expand theirs as well, which will hopefully further enrich the courses they teach. With Ricker’s help, we are currently planning a symposium with the hopes of inviting architects, designers, and thinkers from underrepresented and minoritized communities and identities to speak to our students.”

Ricker looks forward to collaborating with NOMAS to ensure that the library is a resource for inspiration and knowledge building across a broad and inclusive array of architectural voices and practices.

Krannert Art Museum Exhibition Guides

Since about 2015, Ricker Library has been partnering with KAM curators to specific exhibition guides to pair with current exhibitions. Amy L. Powell, modern and Contemporary Curator said the following about our guides: “Ricker Library guides have proven essential to KAM exhibitions because they provide terrific context we don’t usually address in the museum galleries. Materials have included links to dynamic digital content showing artists working and artist interviews, art historical resources on an exhibition’s themes, and curator reading recommendations. These guides are especially helpful now as we revisit digital exhibition content during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Recently, we had the opportunity to showcase the guide we created for the show Bea Nettles, Harvest of Memory, which is a solo show for beloved UIUC alumna and faculty emerita. Nettles had this to say: “The Ricker has prepared a helpful resource to supplement my show which includes videos of the interiors of several of the books they own of mine and my students, and thematic guides expand on contemporary investigations into topics introduced in my work over the years.”

In addition to the Bea Nettles guide, we developed the following guides in 2020:

Additionally, the permanent galleries Encounters: Arts of Africa and Art Since 1948 have their own guides which we update regularly.

To see the full archive of guides we’ve created for KAM exhibitions, please visit Ricker Library's KAM Exhibitions Archive.

What's Coming up for Spring 2021
  • We’ll be hosting a couple of zine workshops with International Student & Scholar Services and La Casa Cultural Center
  • We’re planning a potential discussion series in partnership with the Illinois School of Architecture Lecture Series and Exhibits Committee
  • We’re working with Krannert Art Museum to host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in partnership with the Black Lunch Table
  • The School of Art & Design has asked us for a reprise of the Co-VIDs film series

With best wishes for a (hopefully) much better 2021,
The Ricker Library team


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