A blog for materials collections in art, architecture, and design environments. Sponsored by the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA).

Materials & Textiles Study Tour — On the Material Trail: Inside the Culture of ‘Made in Italy’

The Materials Special Interest Group of the Art Libraries Society of North America, in partnership with the ARLIS/NA Fashion, Textile, and Costume Special Interest Group and the ARLIS/NA International Relations Committee, announce a study tour of leather, textile, and fashion-related sites within the Italian region of Tuscany from October 11-17, 2015.

On the Material Trail: Inside the Culture of ‘Made in Italy’ is envisioned as a highly immersive program in a location like no other in the world. It is a unique opportunity to gain a behind-the-scenes experience of the industries that craft the luxury products that define the excellence of ‘Made in Italy’. Designed for librarians, curators, and those interested in and whose subject areas cover these industries, program attendees will have guided access to sites and learn from experts to gain a thorough understanding of Italy’s famous culture of making and design that is both centuries old and contemporary.

On the Material Trail will be based in the town of San Miniato in the heart of Tuscany halfway between Florence and Pisa and is accessible via rail and major airports in those two cities. San Miniato is a site on the Via Francigena, a former pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome and now the center of the Tuscan Leather District. Attendees will be welcomed by the Consortium of Vegetable-Tanned Leather, a non-profit association of twenty-two tanneries in the region that promotes the natural beauty and responsible use of this rich material.

Inline image 1
[Photo credit: Mathias Liebing]

Attendees will lodge and dine on regional cuisine and wine based on the Slow Food philosophy at the Conservatorio of Santa Chiara, a religious site turned cultural center at the top of San Miniato (with breathtaking views of rolling vineyards and the valley below) that will also serve as classroom for the presentation- and discussion-based parts of the program. Far enough away from major tourist areas, life in San Miniato—the center of this skilled production area—will ensure a unique and authentic Tuscan experience.

Inline image 3
[Photo credit: Mathias Liebing]

Tentative itinerary (October 11-17):

  • Sunday: arrive San Miniato (pick-up at train station) for check-in and orientation

  • Monday: tour area leather tannery (with focus on vegetable tanning) to witness complete processing from raw material to finished supply

  • Tuesday: tour polytechnic science institute to understand quality controls, certification, and research-based experimental tannery; tour water purification plant to understand demanding environmental concerns and regulations; visit small-production iconic shoe factory and factory store

  • Wednesday: day-trip to Florence with visit to bespoke leather shoemaker; afternoon free in Florence (suggested museums to be provided but of course The Uffizi beckons)

  • Thursday: day-trip to Prato to tour its famous textile industry, both historic and modern, with visits to yarn and textile factories

  • Friday: day-trip to Florence with visit to a foundation specialized in figured silk embroidery and weaving on original 17th C. looms and concluding with a fashion-based product developer who specializes in sourcing, prototyping, and working with large fashion houses to develop new products combining heritage artisan techniques with innovative new solutions across material fields

  • Saturday: check-out

In addition to the above sites, a classroom-based discussion will occur at the end of each day to ensure synthesis and understanding. Attendees will also receive material samples when possible (alas, not from the purification plant!) and a list of educational resources to enrich their subject expertise. Further, a video or similar production will be created for the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal.

Inline image 1
[Photo credit: Mathias Liebing]


  • The tour requires a minimum of 10 attendees with a maximum of 22.

  • Attendees will receive a pricing discount when the group reaches 15. Thus, single occupancy will range from 1400 (with group discount) or 1550 (without group discount) and double occupancy from 1250 (with group discount) or 1400 (with group discount). These figures are subject to minor revision.

  • The tour price is in Euros per person and includes: six nights lodging, breakfast for 6 days (M-SA), lunch for 4 days (M, TU, TH, F–Wednesday in Florence lunch is on your own), dinner for 6 days (SU-F), program-related transportation for 5 days, visits & tutor-guide

  • The tour price does not include: flight to Tuscany, transfer from airport to San Miniato

As you may know from recent headlines, this is an excellent time to visit Europe with the best currency conversion rates in twelve years. Further, October is one of the best months to visit Italy (following the summer heat and before winter rains begin). Arrange your bookend weekends in Florence where there is no shortage of masterpieces. Whatever your motivations, which are bound to be many, join ARLIS/NA in Tuscany!

To gauge interest and feasibility, I would like to hear from potential participants by August 21, 2015.

Mark Pompelia
Coordinator, Materials Special Interest Group

Granta Materials Education Symposia 2016: Call for Abstracts

Granta Design is looking forward to receiving further abstracts by the Sept. 30 deadline for the 2016 Materials Education Symposia, for the North American event (UC Berkeley, Mar 17-18) and the International event (University of Cambridge, Apr 7-8). There will also be an Asian Symposium later in the year (Singapore, Dec 8-9).If you have a passion for materials education, submit your abstract or register now for these unique conferences that are open to any educator who teaches undergraduates about materials within engineering, design, sustainability, architecture, and other science subjects.

After successful 2015 events, Granta is looking forward to a busy speaker program next year, moderated by the Symposium Academic Advisory Committee. Further information about the Symposia themes and sub-themes are detailed on the event website.


RISD Materials Symposium Content Available

The IMLS-funded symposium, Materials Education and Research in Art and Design: A New Role for Libraries, held from June 6-8, 2013 at Rhode Island School of Design, is now available for download via the Digital Commons @ RISD institutional repository. The site consists of audio-recorded presentations and event-related publications, including the White Paper, “Materials Collection Creation and Administration: A New Role for Libraries.”

REMINDER! University of Notre Dame: Materials Library Survey

The University of Notre Dame is conducting a Materials Library Research Project survey and would benefit from your input. Please visit the following link to complete a short 10-15 minute survey:

The results from this survey will provide them the opportunity to learn more about materials libraries and identify the issues should they wish to create one. Results from the survey will be shared on this blog and benefit the conversations being held among this interest group.

Responses desired by July 1, 2015. Thank you for your participation.

Materials Special Interest Group Meeting at ARLIS/NA Annual Conference

Materials Special Interest Group
Saturday, March 21, 2015 | 1:30–2:30pm
Art Libraries Society of North America 43rd Annual Conference
Omni Fort Worth Hotel, Fort Worth, TX

Moderator: Mark Pompelia, Rhode Island School of Design
Recorder: Elizabeth Schaub, University of Texas at Austin


Mark Pompelia (RISD). They have a collection that is approximately five years old.

Elizabeth Schaub (UT Austin). Elizabeth read a statement from Jen Wong, Director of the Materials Lab in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin.

Tony White (Maryland Institute College of Art). They will be developing a materials library; they are still developing an approach. They might be using ContentDM.

Stacy Brinkman (Miami University in Ohio). They don’t have a materials collection.

Billy Kwan (NYSID Library Director). They have two materials “collections.” The material is not cataloged; they receive it from vendors in the city. They have close relationships with a number of firms from which they receive materials. They have “working chaos.” He is new to this area so he would like to learn more about what resources/databases are available.

Lauren McDonald (California College of Arts). The collection started in the 90s to serve architecture and interiors. It has expanded into textiles and fashion so they have expanded into other areas. They re-cataloged and weeded the collection last year (still working on this). They now circulate the materials and they can be taken to studios. They are getting ceramic and sculpture students from the Oakland campus.

Kasia Leosis (Auburn University). Materials Lab is very young (1.5 years). They have about 400 samples. Using the CSI format they are creating catalog records that are in their OPAC. They are using DSpace for the digital collections.

Gayle Storr (Columbus School of Architecture and Design). It’s a small collection with items from Material ConneXion and it has been supplemented from vendors. They produce cards so that items look like they are from the same collection. They had an open house in the fall (the Materials Library is located in the back of the VRC). It’s serving as an inspirational tool at this point.

Mark discussed Maya Gervits’ introduction to the New Jersey Institute’s collection of 22K-samples collections at AASL.

Mark reported out on the IMLS grant. IMLS gave RISD an additional year to spend the money on a shared RISD/Harvard shared database. When Mark returns from conferences, he will be meeting with Harvard staff to determine how they can move the project forward. All grant deliverables were turned in to IMLS in December 2014. Those deliverables will be added to the RISD digital commons. The white paper is intended to address concerns that an individual might have who was interested in establishing a collection. Harvard has a materials collection and database but wants to move to an environment not restricted behind a Harvard firewall. Cloud-based, open source system that supports cataloging and is a shared system so that you can see where items are. The thought was that a shared system would help support a learning environment. They have been involved in writing grants to fund development of a front-end for the aforementioned cataloging back-end. The inclusion of a means to capture experiential information about a material is going to be included on the user-side.

Mark indicated that the Materials SIG blog is something he wants to keep going. There are 252 subscribers currently. He has developed a list of vendors who are interested in donating materials. He has also started creating profiles. He encouraged others to contribute to the blog as authors. He also noted that he would be happy to hand over the moderator role of this SIG to someone else if they are interested but was reaffirmed as moderator for another year via acclamation.

Mark mentioned that he would like to think about programming for the upcoming ARLIS/NA|VRA joint conference in Seattle. He and Alix Reiskind at Harvard have been in touch about programming

Billy noted that he receives requests from individuals at institutions who are interested in establishing a materials collection. He made an inquiry about an assessment of everyone’s collection.

Elizabeth suggested a matrix showing current material collections at a glance.

Tony suggested that a Lighting Round might be a great way to present information in Seattle.

Mark thinks that that Lighting Round makes a lot of sense.

Mark is happy to draft a proposal for the 2016 conference.

Mark mentioned that if anyone wants author privileges on the blog he is happy to give them those permissions.

Mark will propose a set of categories for the matrix and make that information available on a Google Doc so we can easily collaborate.

(Lauren McDonald ) The CCA collection is hanging. Librarians were not involved initially; the idea was that students would find things through serendipity. Now the collection is organized by source type (metals, polymers, etc.). They are at capacity space-wise. There was a question about whether other collections are dealing with questions from students asking about both objects (typewriter) and historic materials (like iron used in a railroad).

Elizabeth mentioned that virtual reality could be a way to address these questions.

Billy is aware of some commercial software called Designer Pages. It is an online resource that has data from material/product vendors. They work with vendors who provide them with data. It is a subscription service. It is a source for projects. There is another app called To the Trade that also helps designers to pull together information about a project.

Lauren has seen a decrease in material libraries in firms while there is an increase in collections based in academic institutions.

Billy noted that he went to the NY office of Gensler and they told him that they are trying to re-engineer the library/materials library.

Lauren is now getting requests from local firms to visit their library.

Elizabeth mentioned that it might be worth reaching out to Designer Pages to find out about their metadata schemas.

Mark gets approached by Source for Style (fashion focused).

Questions about how we become more involved with industry may be the next set of questions that our collections might need to work through.

Billy noted that some of the online products are nascent and are ripe for development/maturation. This could be an opportunity to determine how these entities interface with academic material libraries. How does the academic research complement the commercial approach?

Kasia Leousis: “Creating an Interdisciplinary Materials Lab in the Design Library”

ArtDoc34.1Materials collection colleague Kasia Leousis is the author of the article titled, “Creating an Interdisciplinary Materials Lab in the Design Library,” published in the latest issue of Art Documentation. Kasia is Architecture and Art Librarian in the Library of Architecture, Design and Construction at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama; e-mail:

The electronic version of Art Documentation Spring 2015 (v. 34, no.1) is available to JSTOR subscribers and to ARLIS/NA members through the members-only section of the ARLIS/NA website.  The link for the e-book edition is also available in this section.  Print copies have been mailed.

To access the electronic version, click on the MEMBER LOG-IN link at the top of the ARLIS/NA website, log in, then click on the “Art Documentation Online: Click to Access JSTOR” link (stable URL: Each new issue of the journal is available for download on any e-reader device via the JSTOR portal. After you are logged in, click on the button “Click to Access EPubs” where you will be redirected to the Press e-Book page.



MATSIG to Meet at 2015 ARLIS/NA Annual Conference

Please mark your SCHED(ule) for the meeting of the Materials Special Interest Group during the 2015 Annual Conference of the Art Libraries Society of North America at 1:30-2:30pm on Saturday, March 21 in Sundance 5 at the Omni conference hotel in downtown Fort Worth, Texas.

Topics will include:
  • Introduction Lightning Round
  • Project Updates
  • Session Proposals for 2016
  • Next Steps (Group Leadership & Resource Development)

Please send any additional items for discussion by Wednesday, March 18 to


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