Reference librarians talk to many people. My day is often predicated, punctuated even, by little conversations. By telephone, email, and in person, I answer questions. Often, those questions are directional. At some point someone will ask you where the restroom is, or why the elevator has delivered them to the library and not the galleries, or what painting is where. Naturally, we explain. In the process, reference librarians tend to internalize the answers to many basic questions about the museum. We rattle off sight line objects like landmarks, as in, "take a right at Twilight in the Wilderness, walk through the next gallery, there will be a large table in the center of the next room, look at the legs of it, they are carved beautifully, now look up, and there's Miss Dora Wheeler by William Merritt Chase, you will know it by the mustard colored wallpaper in the background, now if you walk to the right around that wall, the Albert Pinkham Ryder is there." That said, admittedly I am no expert. Consider then, that I recently fielded a question regarding our collection.
"Where is the Rockwell," the caller asked.
I replied, "oh you mean the Rockwell Kent?"
"No," the caller replied, "the Norman Rockwell, I know exactly the picture that you have."
Stymied, I dipped as I often do, into the museum object database. We must have something, a lithograph, or something. Even if it wasn't on display, I could relay the fact that it wasn't. The query returned nothing. I checked the exhibition history database, nothing again. While I am sure this question has come up previously, perhaps during the show of his work at the Akron Art Museum a few years back, the answer is the same; we don't have one. Here I am, then, on the birthday of one of the most recognizable American artist, realizing we have nothing by him in the museum collection. And that is where the little conversation always veers back to what I am able to provide. My response that day and from here on out is that the Ingalls Library has a number of books on the artist, perhaps we could find the painting you are thinking of there.