Possibility Thinking: How the Ingalls Library Supports the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Open Access Initiative

Submitted by Heather Saunders on

One year ago today, the CMA became an open access (OA) institution, defined by OA guru Peter Suber as “[b]arrier-free access to online works and other resources.” The Ingalls Library participated in the lead-up to the launch by preparing metadata, and has since had the pleasure of marketing the OA initiative.

In February 2019, Director of Ingalls Library, Heather Saunders, spoke about the CMA’s open access initiative at the national forum, Advancing Art Libraries and Curated Web Archives at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, organized by the Internet Archive and the New York Art Resources Consortium Consortium (the Brooklyn Museum, the Frick Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art), and generously funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With facilitator Karl Blumenthal (Web Archivist, Internet Archive) and panelists Michele Elligott (Museum Archivist, MoMA) and Emily Rafferty (Head Librarian and Archivist, Baltimore Museum of Art), Saunders considered next steps including how to preserve scholarship generated using open access content. The symposium attendees visited the Internet Archive, where it was thrilling that IA founder, Brewster Kahle, described the OA-related courage demonstrated by the CMA and others, as essential, musing, “Sometimes the weight of ‘no’ outshouts the mission.” As Kenneth D. Crews, attorney and international copyright consultant, observed of copyright in a recent conference at Miami University: “change in attitude or awareness…happens slowly” so it’s ideal to “keep your eyes on the mission of the institution and be flexible.” The kind of paradigm shift that open access represents can only occur through linking arms and being possibility thinkers.  As the CMA has experienced, with courage comes great reward!

Saunders’ SFMoMA presentation prompted an invitation to write about open access, image rights, and copyright in a chapter for a forthcoming publication organized by the Art Libraries Society of North America. With the goal of other institutions benefitting from the CMA’s positive experience, Saunders has written about recommendations for cross-departmental collaboration. For example, in preparing for open access, library staff worked closely with curators, curatorial assistants, and the Digital Innovation & Technology Services staff to create rules for recording citations that appear in Collections Online. Citations for (ideally) every instance that an object from our collection is written about or reproduced in scholarship make it as easy as possible to research the collection. Rachel McPherson, Digital Projects and Copyright Librarian, has input over 7,000 such citations since 2018. One year after the CMA went open access, library staff regularly join Digital Innovation & Technology Services drop-in sessions as we continue to refine the creation and expansion of bibliographies.

In November, in partnership with Kelvin Smith Library, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Ingalls Library co-organized Open Access Content In Teaching & Research: Sparking Creativity| Fostering Equity at Case Western Reserve University’s Freedman Center. Panelists included (above, from left to right) Jane Alexander (Chief Information Officer, CMA), Jared Bendis (Creative New Media Officer, CWRU), Mandi Goodsett (Performing Arts and Humanities Librarian, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State U.), and Einav Rabinovitch-Fox (Visiting Professor, Dept. of History, CWRU). Topics at this symposium included CMA’s open access initiative, open access in the classroom, open textbooks, and the use of open access content in video game design.

 Now, onto year 2!