"Dear Sisters" collage series

“Dear Sisters,” a collage series designed by Melissa A. Young.

The University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office student staff came up with a way to repurpose book covers from the library’s reference book collection. The covers were put to use in a series of collages, titled Dear Sisters. Designed and created by students Melissa A. Young, with assistance from Elzbieta L. Beck and Madelyn Homuth, the collages advertise the reference collection and provide the office with a series of interesting and thought-provoking artwork. Professional staff member Heather Shimon answered some questions about the collages for the Library as Incubator Project in the fall of 2011. – Laura

What was the impetus for/origin of the project?

The Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office has a reference collection of around 1,200 books.  Until recently, they were not in the UW-Madison online catalog.  We decided that they should be, and marked with the standard library labeling.  In order to do this, we could no longer display the books in their book jackets.

Dear Sisters collage series

“Dear Sisters,” a collage series designed by Melissa A. Young.

A student worker in the office, Melissa A. Young, immediately took an interest in finding another purpose for the book jackets and approached me with the idea of a three-dimensional collage.  The collage would incorporate images cut out from the book jackets along with other materials, such as beads, paint, and wire, to create true works of art.  She presented a mock-up of her idea at an office staff meeting and we were all very impressed.

How did the creators of the art pieces decide on the materials for the pieces? How were these materials obtained?

Melissa made up a list of materials she would need for the project, what tasks the two other student employees (Elzbieta “Bess” Beck and Madelyn Homuth) could do to help, and a timeline of how long it would take.  The additional materials were purchased from the University Book Store.

Melissa created three pieces for the office, two 11” x 14” and one 18” x 24”.  She coordinated the tasks of the other two student employees, and they were able to contribute to the work.  All three pieces were designed and completed within three weeks, and they turned out beautifully.  The pieces are engaging and exciting with vivid images that pop off the canvas in a whirl of shapes, colors, and textures.  They include visually compelling vignettes that express the stories that can be found in the Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office, as well as compose a visual record of the office.

Why was it important to include artwork in the display?

"Dear Sisters" collage series

“Dear Sisters,” a collage series designed by Melissa A. Young

The artwork has a permanent home in the Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office, but was also on display temporarily in other areas of Memorial Library.  All three pieces were on display in Memorial Library’s reference department along with other items from the Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office to increase the office’s visibility.  However, the office would not have had a display in the reference department without the artwork.  The artwork drew the interest of the reference department to collaborate on a display.

After this display, two of the pieces were displayed in Memorial Library’s staff art exhibit.  Other libraries on campus have expressed interest in displaying the artwork.  Besides publicizing the office and our resources, the project also increased the student workers’ engagement in the office.

You can learn more about the University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office by visiting their website. The photographs for this feature were taken by Laura Damon-Moore.

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