Processing and Documenting the Sidney Martin Library Art Collection


Project Objectives

The Sidney Martin Library at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill campus, has an extensive art collection, consisting of approximately 120 artworks, which are mainly paintings and sculptures. The artworks are displayed in various areas of the Library and its offices. Currently there are only two places in Barbados when one can enjoy fine art, one of them—the Gallery of Caribbean Art in Speightstown—being a private establishment, and the other being the Barbados Museum, which houses impressive collections, though not specifically dedicated to art.

We propose to fully process and document the Sidney Martin Library art collection by creating detailed records and inventory of the artworks.

This work is crucial for the collection’s integrity and will allow the library to have full intellectual and physical control over the artworks. Furthermore, it will form the basis for future plans of the Library, such as thematic temporary exhibitions in the Library’s main hall, online exhibits, or "teaching with special collections" academic initiatives.

Through the proposed project, we aim to promote the collection’s value and visibility as a tool for academic and public education.


Background: Description and Significance of the Collection

Throughout the years, the Sidney Martin Library at UWI Cave Hill has acquired a considerable art collection. This began with the stewardship of Mr. Michael Gill, Librarian. Miss Bretney, Chief Cataloguer, who later succeeded Mr. Gill, was involved with the Barbados Arts Council, and it was her initiative that spearheaded the drive to collect art. In fact, when the Library was remodeled in 1995/96 the catalogue hall was deliberately designed to accommodate art exhibitions, and there were a few exhibitions by prominent artists. Under campus librarian Ms. Elizabeth Watson, the Library secured additional pieces, including a replica of the Olive Blossom and paintings purchased by private donors. Today, the collection consists of approximately 120 paintings, maps, prints, and sculptures.

The collection represents a wide gamut of Caribbean artists, such as Jamaican Albert Huie or Trinidadian Boscoe Holder; Barbadian artists, such as Olivier Burnett; UWI graduates, such as Helen Carnegie and Omowale Stewart; and Barbadian personalities, such as Dame R. Nita Barrow. The artwork reflects the Caribbean’s traditions and lifestyle that have now been superseded by modern life. As such, the SML collection gives a rare image of a past that some younger generations might not even be familiar with.

Many of the artworks are interspersed in the Library’s offices, with the majority of the pieces hanging in public areas. However, the artworks are not accompanied by labels, because the collection is not thoroughly documented, and this makes it difficult to use it for educational and cultural purposes.

Because of the value of these artworks as part of Barbados' cultural patrimony, and for Caribbean art, the project we propose is of particular significance. The work proposed in this document will be used to build upon future projects.

The work to be undertaken will form the basis of future plans of the UWI Library, such as mounting temporary exhibitions, online exhibits, as well as using the artwork as a teaching tool. The SM Library has currently undertaken extensive renovations of the lobby area to create an exhibit area that will be amenable to periodically mounting well-curated, small thematic exhibits from a choice of artworks in the collection. Documenting this collection will not only provide detailed information for each item, but will also allow us to see thematic groupings and artists’ affinities, which will allow for development of exhibits or teaching modules.


Main Activities Foreseen

We propose to process and document the Sidney Martin Library art collection.

We envision that this project and its outcomes will:

  • Provide robust documentation for the artworks
  • Promote their value for academic and scholarly research
  • Support training of UWI students with transferable skills
  • Enable the Library to fulfil the role in raising cultural awareness in the UWI community and the wider public
  • Enrich UWI’s creative arts program
  • Enhance teaching at the UWI through the use of artwork and special collections
  • Breathe new life to the art collection, by promoting its value for academic and public education

During this work, detailed records for each artwork will be created (including physical and topical descriptions; artist information; and provenance, whenever possible). These records will be accompanied by high-resolution photos. All this information will be gathered in an online database that will avail the Library with the opportunity to show the works online.