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Journals in Design/Material Culture

A year ago the Bard Graduate Center—a small research institute for material culture and design history—closed down its publication of Studies in the Decorative Arts (a key journal in that field) and replaced it with a new hybrid online/print publication, expanding its thematic scope at the same time. The new journal, entitled West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture intends, according to the editorial statement of the first issue, to “embrace the approaches and objects of study implied in our subtitle. We are also introducing new features such as exhibition reviews, translations of primary sources, and review articles which will offer a forum for debate and reflection on the subject as much as new research.”

The editors go on to acknowledge that “(i)t may seem reckless to be launching a print journal in 2011 when scholarly publications are closing in the face of new technologies and new modes of study. West 86th will continue as a print journal, but it will also have a presence in the digital sphere.,” and go on to list the full online version via subscription and a website with tailored content at http://www.west86th.bgc.bard.edu/.

The re-launch of the institution’s website coincides with the renaming of the school and re-modeling of the physical location (perhaps, hence, the reference to its street address), further underscoring that this journal’s identity is clearly wrapped up in the projected identity and academic presence of the school itself. Meanwhile, in terms of journals in this field as a whole, while the BGC program is interdisciplinary, most of the fields involved (art history, design history, material culture) all share the need for visual resources. After talking to the librarians at BGC they agreed that copyright issues have kept most journals in these fields in print form, due to the difficulty of putting images (often from museums, archives, private collections) online, especially for peer-reviewed publications. Exceptions to this are more blog-type online journals, such as the anthropological Material World: http://blogs.nyu.edu/projects/materialworld/

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