Featured artist/collector: Morgan Jesse Lappin

I’m pretty sure that Marisa Zarczynski ’ 06 was the first student at St. Lawrence University to help me with my budding sticker research project back in the early 2000s. We reconnected again lately, and she introduced me to an artist friend of hers from Brooklyn who collects stickers, Morgan Jesse Lappin. Here is his sticker story.


“My sticker collection started in the early 80s in Rockland County, NY. My mother would take me to the supermarket, and I’d get a bunch of random stickers and the newest MAD Magazine. One day my mother gave me an empty photo album to use as my sticker book, and that’s what started my official collection. 

As I got older, my hobbies and interests changed. I took on music, silkscreening, and eventually collage art in 2007, which was the same year I moved to Brooklyn. That’s when my sticker game increased significantly. As I traversed the streets of Brooklyn, I would find stickers on buildings, light poles, and signs. If someone could reach a spot anywhere, there was probably a sticker on it. I would peel off stickers and stick them inside my shirt. When I got home, I’d turn my shirt inside out and place them all into my sticker book. On a good day, I’d bring back close to 30.

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

The stickers now go into special handmade sticker books. As a collage artist, I bring my collage aesthetic into most of my projects, even when I write music. The books are made out of record covers, which I spiral bind with blank pages for the stickers.

In 2021, my collection has grown to over 400 pages with multiple stickers on each page. The collection includes stickers representing bands, local shops, artists, events, and the list goes on. My collection has its own instagram account @nyc.sticker.book, which so far is only showing about a quarter of my collection. I do my best to post daily!

Summer is the best time to peel stickers. In the winter, they get cold and brittle, and they chip. Vinyl stickers peel off the best. Paper stickers tend to tear as you peel them. Unless you grab a paper sticker that was recently slapped, chances of a healthy peel are greatly reduced.

Very rarely will I allow stickers picked outside of NYC, which hardly ever happens as I don’t leave the city very often. The streets of the Bushwick section in Brooklyn have been my main source of stickers. I live off of the Myrtle/Broadway J/M subway stop in Bedford–Stuyvesant, and this is where I usually pick. Another great location is along Bedford Ave. in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It’s a very popular location with a ton of great artist-owned shops, and it’s always ripe for the picking. Besides that, the Lower East Side in Manhattan is another great spot. Sticker artists know that this is where you slap if you want to be seen.

Sticker-covered ATM on Bedford Avenue

I certainly miss going out and picking. Sadly, Covid has had a huge effect on the collection since I don’t really venture out of my room these days. There was one time I was out picking, and someone watched me peel stickers. At first, the person felt I was robbing the sticker slapper of their work, but I make sure to do my best to track down the artist, and tag them on instagram to make sure they get the credit they deserve.

Collecting stickers is a passion that I hope to continue well into my old age. In twenty years, if you see an old guy scratching a sticker off a wall in Brooklyn, it’s probably going to be me. I’m hoping in the future to display the collection in its entirety for an audience of enthusiasts. Stickers have always been an amazing form of expression. To have a collection that represents all of these creative humans is a privilege and an honor. It would be very difficult for me to choose my favorite sticker artist, because I have just too many I’m in love with.One of my proudest moments was when I ordered my first set of stickers that I designed myself. It was based on one of my most well-known collages entitled “Dracula’s Bitches,” and portrays an image of Bela Lugosi as Dracula with two protecting lions in front of him, somehow giving him power to survive daylight.”

“Dracula’s Bitches” sticker by Morgan Jess Lappin

All photos courtesy of Morgan Jesse Lappin.

Adding images of I.W.W. ”stickerettes” to Wikipedia pages

Today is Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary, so it’s a good time to share some of my recent Wikipedia activities. For the past couple of years, I’ve been adding images of I.W.W. “stickerettes” to various Wikipedia pages. The stickerettes, which were published before 1925, are in the public domain, so copyright is not an issue.

Here is how I add images to Wikipedia:

You will first need to create an account or log into an existing account on Wikimedia Commons at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

After logging in, click on either the “Upload file” under “Participate” on the left – or on the blue “Upload” button on the upper right.

Read through page 1 of the Upload Wizard called “Learn” to determine if you can upload your image(s). You can only upload images that you created yourself or images that are freely licensed. According to the Upload Wizard, there are two main exceptions:

  • “You can upload someone else’s work if the author granted permission for anyone to use, copy, modify, and sell it;” or
  • “You can upload your photographs [image files] of old art, statues, and buildings (usually over 150 years old).”

For more on determining copyright, visit https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/faqs/copyright-basics/, which states that “all works published in the United States before 1925 are in the public domain.”

After reading through the “Learn” page, click on “Next” at the bottom right and go to “Select media files to share.” You can upload one file or multiple files at the same time.

Click on “Next” and go to the “Release rights” page:

  • Click on “These files are not my work.”
  • Then list Source and Author(s). In this case, I added “Bisbee Deportation Legal Papers and Exhibits (AZ 144). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries,” which is the correct and complete credit line for this collection.
  • Leave the next two Creative Commons section blank. In the Copyright section, click on “First published in the United States before 1925.” Leave the remaining sections blank.

On the” Describe” page:

  • Under “Caption,” use: I.W.W. “stickerettes” from Bisbee Deportation Legal Papers and Exhibits (AZ 144). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.
  • Under “Description,” use: I.W.W. “stickerettes” were used as evidence through the deposition of William A. Cahill in the legal suit of Michael Simmons vs. the El Paso and Southern Railroad Company et al.
  • List “1919” as the date the work was created or first published (the date of the Simmons v EP&SW case).

On the “Add data” page:

  • Add “sticker.”

On the “Use” page, click on “Upload.”

This past weekend, I added six of the seven image files of 15 stickerettes from the Bisbee Deportation Legal Papers and Exhibits (AZ 144). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries to Wikimedia Commons (see earlier post about the Bisbee stickerettes). Now I need to track down which Wikipedia pages to which I can add them…. Stay tuned.

Additional notes:

The Bisbee Deportation Legal Papers and Exhibits in the University of Arizona Libraries’ Special Collections date to 1917-1919, so the stickerettes are considered in the public domain. The Arizona Archives Online has more information about the collection and its contents here.

“Takin’ it to the Street and Stickin’ it to the Man: Cultural and Political Resistance in Contemporary Sticker Art” – Part I

[Note: This blog post is based on the first national paper I gave on street art stickers for the annual College Art Association conference in February 2008 as part of a panel on “The Vernacular Print in Contemporary Art” chaired by Beauvais Lyons. I have updated some of the links and images to reflect more current resources.]

In this paper, I examine contemporary sticker art as a form of cultural and political resistance, using primary examples collected since 2003 from the United States, Germany, and Canada. In the first half of the paper, I provide an overview of the “how, “why,” “who,” and “what” that is communicated in contemporary sticker culture. In the latter half (forthcoming), I discuss specific stickers from Germany and the United States that focus on three broad themes: politics, culture and the media, and the environment.

Many of the grouped stickers in this presentation are from an exhibition that I organized in 2006 entitled “The Gallery Has A Posse” for St. Lawrence University, where I work as gallery director. (I’ll explain the “posse” reference later.) I also show images of stickers photographed on site, as well as screen shots from various websites, focusing in particular on the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-commercial, and anti-elitist messages that stickers convey. It’s easy, in fact, to demonstrate that stickers and sticker artists are “takin’ it to the street and stickin’ it to the Man.”

“The Gallery Has A Posse” exhibition card (exterior)

Some of the images I show today might be considered offensive, so please be forewarned. It’s also important to note that I am not discussing typical bumper stickers in this presentation. Rather, these stickers, also called street stickers or art stickers, typically run small in size, around 2×3 to 4×6 inches, or smaller. Premium vinyl stickers can be created easily through fast, cheap online commercial printing services where artists upload a digital file and, within a week, receive a hundred to several thousands of stickers. Such services can be found online through Sticker Robot, StickerNation, and Sticker Guy, among others.

Some artists create their own small editions of stickers, making photocopies at a local copy shop or doing their work on the job for free, which is, of course, one way of stickin’ it to the “Company Man.” Other artists liberate “HELLO-My-Name-Is” stickers and Sharpies from their employers, creating one-of-a-kind doodles and more detailed drawings, elaborate paintings, and collages. Unwittingly, the US Postal Service, Deutsche Post, and others have also become corporate sponsors in the sticker world by providing free mailing labels (see below). And like generations of agitprop artists before them, many sticker artists create multiples through stencil printing and silkscreen.

Publicly placed stickers are now ubiquitous in urban centers around the world, situated metaphorically at a busy intersection of imagery and content formed by hip-hop, punk, anarchy, and other forms of “culture jamming,” a term that refers to the process of transforming and subverting mass media. Often seen at eye level or just beyond reach, stickers grace every imaginable surface of the built environment—from light poles and traffic signs to construction sites and dumpsters. Stickers also adorn skateboards, musical instruments, and laptops, appealing to a hip and engaged youth culture and even a middle-aged woman like me.

In terms of naming, sticker artists function much like traditional graffiti artists from the last 35 to 40 years. Crispin Sartwell, while chair of Humanities and Sciences at the Maryland Institute College of Art, wrote,

“Most graffiti artists dub themselves with the name they use in their work.  In part, this is an attempt to undermine the use of names, [both] in the legal system and [in] modes of surveillance: to create a persona that worms its way underneath the forms of textual power. The idea is simultaneously to be hard to identify by power and massively famous outside it: to manufacture an unofficial name that does not appear on [a] birth certificate or other documents and then to broadcast it as far as [possible] in a culture underneath the official one.”

Nowadays, many sticker artists don’t identify themselves with a name per se, but bomb the streets with personal avatars like humanoid figures, robots, sheep, bunnies, hands, faces, four-leaf clovers, ants, flies, or plant forms. Aside from overtly political stickers, portraiture and signature stickers are among the most common forms of expression, whereby artists are tirelessly engaged in a D-I-Y form of self-promotion. As such, many artists use stickers as a means of “tagging” a public space, making it one’s own, at least temporarily.  Examples here from the mid-2000s include Obey Giant, Faile, 5003, RobotsWillKill, orkid man, Hek Tad, and Matt Siren.

In this context, tagging is a way of “hitting” a site. In a 1974 essay entitled The Faith of Graffiti, Norman Mailer, functioning in the role of new journalist, wrote,

“You hit your name and maybe something in the whole scheme of the system gives a death rattle. For now your name is over their name, over the subway manufacturer, the Transit Authority, the city administration. Your presence is on their presence; your alias hangs over their scene. There is a pleasurable sense of depth to the elusiveness of the meaning.”

Here Mailer describes the satisfaction of stickin’ it to the man, and his analysis is further revealed in an interview with “Cay” and “Junior 161,” two young street artists who, when asked about the significance of naming, declare, “The name is the faith of graffiti.” Organizers of a recent Berlin-based sticker exhibition also elaborate upon Mailer’s revelation,

“…unlike graffiti, […] stickers don’t have the gesture of destruction inherent in their form – [rather, they are a] gesture of connotation and satiric annotation. [Sticker] interventions are much more representative for a critical mind seeking to contribute to the social urban exchange….”

Fast forward to 2008. Stickering is a now a global phenomenon. Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker, designed in 1989, is best-known in every counter-cultural context (and by now in many mainstream contexts), as are scores of variations in his ongoing, international “OBEY Giant” propaganda campaign.

Original Obey Giant sticker, 1989

In addition, hundreds of Obey Giant bootleg stickers reference the original Andre the Giant design, but feature a range of subjects, from “Charles Darwin has a Posse,” for example, to Vinny Raffa, the Dalai Lama, Emily the Strange, movie stars, serial killers, family members, and pets.

Obey bootlegs, 2006

Sticker artists, like other street artists, often project themselves as underground art activists and maintain a kind of guerrilla or gangsta’ profile on the street and online, posting on Websites and blogs, such as the Wooster Collective, PEEL Magazine’s SLAPS Stickerhead Forum, BOMIT, and several other international sites. [Note: many of these websites no longer exist in their original iterations.]

2008 screen shot
2008 screen shot

The web also serves as a means for artists to distribute their works. By posting and attaching image files of their stickers on social media like Flickr and elsewhere, artists make it possible for others to print and post their imagery in almost any location.

2008 screen shot

Flickr and other social media sites also provide a way of “tagging” images, where an online community of tens of thousands of viewers discuss and tag sticker photographs. Such “folksonomic” projects, which incorporate user-generated content or metadata, ironically subvert the elaborate structures of authority lists and controlled vocabularies that are the foundation of most institutional digital image collections. Dr. Jill Walker from the University of Bergen, Norway, describes this as a form of “distributed narrative,” in which time, space, and authorship are not unified, but are rather what she characterizes as being “across media, through the network, and … in the physical spaces that we live in.” I call this hybrid mix “Street Art 2.0.”

In keeping with their rebellious persona, many artists reject cultural co-optation by avoiding certain mainstream settings in order to keep their activities “on the streets.” Two years ago, for instance, I posted a request on an online “Stickerhead Forum,” asking if anyone would like to send me stickers for the exhibition I was organizing at St. Lawrence. I naively put “cathytedford” as my username and included the name of the gallery at SLU. Not surprisingly, one artist, “delOR,” chided me in response by posting, “keep it gangsta, and on the streets.” Another artist named “Zen” wrote back, too, stating, “the whole idea is not to ask… it’s to do… teacher man… that’s what makes the difference, your asking about it. Just do it. Like Mikey.” Chuckling to myself, I realized at the time that I had become a female version  of the Man! However, a young artist from Queens called “Plasma Slugs” eventually contacted me and came to campus to talk about his work and make stickers with students. I think it was the first time he’d ever filled out a W-9 tax form.

2004 screen shot – haha

Crispin Sartwell. Graffiti and Language. http://www.crispinsartwell.com/grafflang.htm. 2004 [Note: website unavailable in 2021.]

Kurlanksy, Mervyn and Jon Naar. The Faith of Graffiti. (NY: Praeger Publishers, 1974).

“THE ABC: power and communication/the semiotics of resistance” exhibition organized by Rebel:Art Media Foundation and Memefest, Neurotitan comic store and gallery, Berlin, 2005. See http://www.theabc-org. [Note: website unavailable in 2021.]

Walker, Dr. Jill. “Distributed Narratives: Telling Stories Across Networks.” Presented at AoIR 5.0, Brighton, September 21, 2004.

Confirmed date for early I.W.W. “stickerettes”

Some time ago, I learned about I.W.W. “stickerettes” that are in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections as part of the Bisbee Deportation Legal Papers and Exhibits AZ 114. I had taken screen shots of them to do additional research, but the website they were found on is now no longer active. What is useful, however, is that I can now identify the original 15 designs that were the earliest I.W.W political stickers in the United States (women’s suffrage stickers and stamps were also produced at this time). I’m pretty sure I.W.W leader and commercial artist Ralph Chaplin designed most if not all of these stickerettes. The advertisement below is from the I.W.W. journal called Solidarity dating to April 7, 1917.

Below are the I.W.W. stickerettes that were used as evidence pertaining to the “suit of Michael Simmons vs. the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Company et al. in the Superior Court of Cochise County” related to the Bisbee Deportation in 1917.

Exhibit 4-7
Exhibit 8-12
Exhibit 13-17
Exhibit 155, 160, 164, 166
Exhibit 167-171
Exhibit 172-176
Exhibit 177-178

Here then, for the record, are the 15 designs dating to 1917. They are all included in my collection.

The Government Has Blood on Its Hands

An article in The Washington Post this past week entitled A Death Every 30 Seconds revealed this sobering statistic regarding the COVID-19 crisis, which is currently at its highest rate of infection in the United States since the pandemic began. The article states that “every time you listen to Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas,’ about five people have died of the virus between the beginning and the end of the song…. On Sept. 12, the number of new cases began to increase, rising from about 34,000 new cases a day to, at this point, more than 219,000. The number of deaths from covid-19 has similarly ballooned, rising from 728 to nearly 2,600 a day.”

The WaPo headline reminded me of a sticker from the 1980s by an AIDS activist artist collective called Gran Fury that shows a bloody hand with the text, “The Government Has Blood on Its Hands” and “One AIDS Death Every Half Hour.” Someone used a marker to cross off the “One” on this sticker and write “3” over it.

Christian LiClair’s article about the Gran Fury image lays out an important point:

“The image of the bloody trace is especially striking in the context of AIDS, since blood plays a crucial part in negotiating the disease and thus advanced to a collective symbol of fear: After a virus was detected as the cause for the immunodeficiency syndrome, blood was not only known as one possible medium of contamination but also served as the site for the virus detection – and as a consequence thereof as a marker of an identity as the sero-positive other. In contrast, Gran Fury’s blood trail signifies a murder: The death of the absent individual is thus not articulated as a consequence on behalf of the HIV-positive individual and the infected blood, but as the result of a political system (italics mine).

I wonder what sort of image and text would work today for a political graphic sticker regarding the coronavirus?

Meanwhile, in the United States:

“Slap Me Baby” interview

Folks from the Slap Me Baby sticker collective in Switzerland contacted me in the spring of 2020 to submit an essay on I.W.W. “stickerettes” and to respond to some interview questions for their next zine. They also sent me some great artists’ and political stickers, which are in the queue to be scanned and catalogued into the Street Art Graphics digital archive. Zine #3 can be purchased on the Slap Me Baby website here.

cover of zine #3
Slap Me Baby #3

I read the interview again today and decided to publish it on Stickerkitty, too.

Can you describe in short words how your interest in stickers began and how it found its way into your academic work?

I first discovered publicly placed stickers while visiting Berlin in 2003. It changed my entire relationship to that city and to every other city I’ve ever visited since that time. I have spent hundreds, probably thousands, of hours roaming around cities looking for stickers. At the time, I also initiated a digital archive at the university where I work as gallery director in order to catalogue what I was finding, and for teaching and research. Many students have helped with the project over the years. I’ve integrated stickers into the curriculum through class discussions, traveling exhibitions, lectures, and hands-on workshops. You can read more about the archive on the Artstor Blog.

Are there countries, regions or cities that you think have an outstanding sticker culture?

Hands down, yes, Berlin is unparalleled in terms of a thriving sticker culture, as are parts of NYC and Montreal, the latter of which are both geographically close enough for me to make regular trips to look for stickers (at least before the pandemic). Berlin and Montreal are both cities marked by conflict and struggle, which affects what you see in the streets.

What distinguishes the sticker in public space from the countless images we see day by day in the feeds of online platforms?

The images found online are all mediated and equalized by the screen. Stickers in real life have materiality and texture. Paper stickers are different than vinyl stickers. Hand-drawn postals are different than stenciled or commercially printed stickers. Stickers have personalities. Some shout; others whisper. Stickers are made by real human beings who have something they want to communicate to the world around them.

Is there a “danger” of an institutionalization of the sticker game, similar to what happened to graffiti with commercial street art, or do you see a chance in it?

As someone who has organized sticker exhibitions, i.e., taking stickers out of their original context and putting them into galleries, I see how that changes the meaning and intent of stickers. I don’t see it as a problem, however. It’s just different. Students who visit the sticker exhibitions love them. Artists have also been keen to get involved. It’s important to acknowledge the context in which stickers are made and viewed, and to avoid any sort of commercialization. I do my work in an educational, non-profit environment, which makes a big difference.

Do you have one or more personal favorite artists who make stickers?

I love just about every sticker I come across, to be honest, but I’m really drawn to one-of-a-kind handmade stickers. They’re usually so earnest. Or mischievous. Or silly. It’s all good.

We have the impression that there are more female artists who make stickers than in graffiti. Do you share this impression?

I’m more familiar with stickers than with the graffiti world, but I know that Montreal’s Under Pressure graffiti festival in August every year has made it a point to feature female artists. My friend Oliver Baudach at Hatch Kingdom in Berlin has also done a wonderful job for years working with female sticker artists. We recently organized a traveling exhibition called She Slaps: Street Arts Stickers by Women Artists From Around the World.

What will the Stickergame look like in 20 years? Do we have to expect major upheavals, new technical possibilities, increased acceptance, stronger repression or something completely different?

That’s a great question. I’ve wondered that, too, since I’ve been stickering for the past 17+ years. I think the motivation and reason to make stickers will continue. It’s the neighborhoods that will change, usually due to urban development and gentrification. Certain parts of Manhattan in the early 2000s were peppered with stickers. Today, those same streets have been stripped clean in favor of luxury condos and shopping centers. But sticker artists will find other places to share their creations. They are unstoppable.

Female artists featured in “Street Art Graphics” digital archive

In 2017, after receiving a faculty research grant from the German Academic Exchange Service to continue cataloguing stickers for the Street Art Graphics digital archive, I spent four weeks in Berlin collecting political stickers and learning about the issues they communicated. My collaborator, Oliver Baudach, founder and director of the Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum, also identified 954 original, unused stickers from his collection of street art stickers for me to scan while I was there, of which 322 were done by female artists.

Scanning at Hatch Kingdom, 2017
Scanning at Hatch Kingdom, 2017

In 2019, with a second grant from the U.S. Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, Oli and I organized a traveling exhibition called SHE SLAPS: Street Art Stickers by Women Artists from Around the World, which premiered at the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY) in the fall of 2019. (See my previous post about the project here.) In preparation for the show, Oli put out a call for new donations and came to campus with an additional 446 stickers by female artists.

Arline Wolfe and Oli Baudach at SLU, 2019
Organizing sticker boards for “SHE SLAPS” exhibition, 2019

Now, three years later from when this all began, I am delighted to announce that we’ve added 762 stickers by female artists to the Street Art Graphics digital archive. That’s 23.1% of stickers in the collection that currently numbers 3,296. There are undoubtedly more stickers by women than that percentage, but those are the ones that have been identified by Oli. Special thanks to SLU’s Arline Wolfe who oversaw the cataloguing of these stickers with help in 2017 from Tyler Senecharles, Class of 2020 (pictured below) and in 2019-20 from Kayla Edmunds, Class of 2021, and Anica Koontz-Miller, Class of 2022.

Tyler Senecharles, SLU ’20, cataloguing stickers, 2019

Oli is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading expert on street art stickers. He keeps meticulous records on artists’ names, geographic locations, and dates, which are so important in cataloguing these items. “Very German,” he’d say. (Note: there are another 632 scans of stickers from 2017 to put in the cataloguing hopper when the time comes.)

Office at Hatch Kingdom, 2017
Oli is part of the SLU family, ca. 2015

Here is how to get to the female artists in the Street Art Graphics digital archive: Click on https://library.artstor.org/#/collection/87730635. Type in “female artists” in the search bar (without quotes). You’ll see 1,027 results. Scroll down on the left to Contributor and click on St. Lawrence University for 762 stickers by female artists.

Working from home during the COVID-19 crisis: Post #3

Working from home during the COVID-19 crisis: Post #3

Lophophora williamsii

I continue to work from home on digital image collection projects that I outlined in my first post from this COVID-19 series, focusing now on a series of confocal miscroscopy images generated by two faculty at St. Lawrence University: Jill Pflugheber, Microscopy Specialist, and Dr. Steven F. White, Lewis Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures. This digital project grew out of an exhibition this past spring at the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at SLU called Microcosms: A Homage to the Sacred Plants of the Americas. Here is the exhibition text panel that the two faculty wrote to accompany the printed images:

“Confocal microscopy, also known as confocal laser scanning microscopy, is a specialized optical imaging technique that provides contact-free, non-destructive measurements of three-dimensional shapes. In this case, plants considered sacred by indigenous groups of the Americas were scanned at St. Lawrence University’s microscopy and imaging center. The procedure gathers information from a narrow depth of field, while simultaneously eliminating out-of-focus glare, as well as permitting the creation of optical sections through biological samples. Images are built over time by gathering photons emitted from fluorescent chemical compounds naturally contained within the plants themselves, creating a vivid and precise colorimetric display.

Psychotria viridis

To pay homage to sacred plants revered by indigenous groups throughout the Americas is a way of honoring the entire world in a time of environmental emergency. The exhibition—at the juncture of art, technology, and science—magnifies life in ways that may alter how humans perceive other living entities from our shared and threatened biosphere in more egalitarian terms. The plants reveal themselves as 21st-century extensions of biomorphic forms that were the genesis of abstract works by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee one hundred years previous. Some of the plants contain the most potent psychoactive agents on the planet and serve as intermediaries that have enabled native communities to communicate with their ancestors, wage war on the enemies of their land, conceptualize entire cosmogonies, and maintain a nearly impossible equilibrium. Perhaps each stoma, trichome, and patterned fragment of xylem and vascular tissue in these vital portraits is not only a way into previously unseen vegetal realms, but also a way out of our collective crisis.”

As a side note, Steven is co-editor of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine (Synergetic Press, 2018). The gallery has presented two other exhibitions based on Steven’s research in this area with world-renowned ethnobotanist Luis Eduardo Luna: Inner Visions: Sacred Plants, Art, and Spirituality in 2016 (+ press release), and Visions that the Plants Gave Us in 1999 (+ more info here).

Diplopterys cabrerana

Creating metadata fields for this collection was also time-consuming for different reasons, but fun overall. The “data dictionary and cataloguing guide” that I created is listed at the end of this post, but here are some general points to make with regard to the work I’ve been doing:

  • I finally figured out how to use RightsStatements.org most effectively for this and other digital image collections at SLU. From the website: “RightsStatements.org provides a set of standardized rights statements that can be used to communicate the copyright and re-use status of digital objects to the public. Our rights statements are supported by major aggregation platforms such as the Digital Public Library of America and Europeana. The rights statements have been designed with both human users and machine users (such as search engines) in mind and make use of semantic web technology.”
  • I also figured out how to use the Creative Commons licenses most effectively for SLU digital image collections. This one was easy because the Microcosms images are copyright-protected by the two faculty.
  • Our cataloguing platform, Jstor Forum, is more nimble now than when I created the Street Art Graphics digital archive in the platform’s predecessor, Shared Shelf, in 2015. (Sorry, but who comes up with these ridiculous platform names, lol?) There are many more “Linked Authority Fields” embedded within most metadata fields that link to several lists of terms, such as the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), and the Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)—some of which are listed on the Library of Congress’s full Linked Data Service website.
  • Despite the funny name, I really like the Jstor Forum admin and cataloguing environments. Both are extremely user-friendly and intuitive, and the published collections emphasize the images in ways other platforms don’t. (I’m talking to you, ContentDM.)

Microcosms: Sacred Plants of the Americas

Data Dictionary and Cataloguing Guidelines

(with examples for peyote in this document)

Temporary album in Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slu-art-gallery/albums/72157713729253121

AAT = Art & Architecture Thesaurus

LCSH = Library of Congress Subject Headings

TGN = Thesaurus of Geographic Names

PLANT DETAILS (i.e., “work”)

1. Common Name: Linked Authority Field (AAT)

Common name of plant. Use Linked Authority Lists based on AAT and LCSH. [Accept multiple values.] Ex: Peyote

2. Genus: Linked Authority Field

Genus of plant. Use Linked Authority Lists based on AAT and LCSH. Ex: Lophophora

3. Species: Linked Authority Field

Species of plant. Use Linked Authority Lists based on AAT, LCSH, and “Microcosms: Species.” Ex: Lophophora williamsii

4. Indigenous Name: Linked Authority Field

Cultural names of the plant. Use Linked Authority Lists based on AAT, LCSH, and “Microcosms: Indigenous Names” (list based on Steven White’s exhibition labels). [Accept multiple values.]

5. Specimen Source: List Field

Person or institution that provided the plant or seed. List provided by Steven White. [Accept multiple values.] Possibly change this to Linked Authority Field?

6. Image View Description: Text Area

Text that describes the content and context of the work, including comments and an interpretation that may supplement, qualify, or explain the physical characteristics, subject, circumstances of creation or discovery, or other information about the work. (Jill Pflugheber to describe plant section.)

7. Subject: Linked Authority Field

Terms that identify, describe, and/or interpret what is depicted in and by a work. Use Linked Authority Fields based on AAT, LCSH, and TGN.

8. Culture (Linked Authority Field)

Name of the culture, people, or nationality from which the plant is used. Use Linked Authority Fields based on AAT and LCSH. [Accept multiple values.] Refer to exhibition labels that Steve supplied.

9. Ethnobotanical Use/Cultural Significance: Text Area

Dr. Steven White to write ~100 words. (Map to Description in Dublin Core.)

LOCATION OF PLANTS

10. Artstor Country: List Field (Required)

A type of “nationality” field, though not in adjectival form; country refers to the modern name of the country from which the artist came. A list of those currently in use by Artstor is provided. [Accept multiple values.]

11. Geographic Location: Linked Authority Field

Geographic location of the plant. Use Linked Authority Field based on TGN. [Accept multiple values.]

DATES OF CONFOCAL IMAGES

12. Image Date: Text Field

Date or range of dates associated with the particular view captured in the image. (Jill Pflugheber will provide acquisition dates.) Ex: 29 Mar 2020

13. Artstor Earliest Date: Number Field (Required)

Year that broadly delimits the beginning of an implied date span. Add five years from date of capture.

14. Artstor Latest Date: Number Field (Required)

Year that broadly delimits the end of an implied date span. Subtract five years from date of capture.

ABOUT THE CONFOCAL IMAGES

15. Artstor Classification: List Field (Required)

Term used to categorize a work by grouping it together with other works on the basis of similar characteristics, including materials, form, shape, function, etc. A list of the 16 terms accepted by Artstor is provided. Use: Science, Technology, and Industry

16. Work Type: Linked Authority Field (AAT)

Term or terms identifying the specific kind of object or work being described. Use Linked Authority Field based on Art and Architecture Thesaurus. Use “confocal microscopy” as default for all records.

17. Laser Excitation Wavelengths: Text Field (Default) (Map to Description)

Jill Pflugheber to provide. Use “488nm=green, 561nm=red, 640nm=blue” as default for all records.

OTHER

18. Repository: Text Field (Default)

The name and geographic location of the repository that is currently responsible for the work. Use “St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY (USA)” as default for all records.

19. SLU Project Coordinators: Text Field (Default)

Names and roles of individuals that played a role in the creation of the image. Use “Jill Pflugheber, Microscopy Specialist, and Dr. Steven White, Lewis Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures” as default for all records.

20. Notes: Text Area

Any additional misc. information to be shared publicly.

21. Local Notes: Text Area (Hidden)

Internal information not to be shared publicly. Field should be hidden but searchable.

22. Rights: Text Field

The copyright status of the digital object. Recommended best practice is to use a controlled statement from RightsStatements.org. Use “Image: Copyright 2020 by Jill Pflugheber and Dr. Steven F. White (Rights Statement – In Copyright http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/)” as default for all records.

23. License: Text Field

The terms under which the digital object may be used by others. Recommended best practice is to use a controlled statement from CreativeCommons.org. Use “Use of this image is in accordance with Creative Commons by Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)” as default for all records.

24. Original Filename: Text Field (Hidden)

Unique numeric or alpha numeric identification, usually a filename, of the original image from Jill Pflugheber. Field should be hidden but searchable.

25. Revised Filename: Text Field (Hidden)

Unique numeric or alpha numeric identification, usually a filename, of the revised image from Jo Skiff. Field should be hidden but searchable.

**NOTE: After the “Fields” are created, all of the fields and the order of the fields need to be re-created in the “Cataloging Form Fields” tab.

Useful websites

Jstor Global Plants (hoping to submit our collection to Jstor in addition to Artstor and DPLA)

World Flora Online

Possibly NAPRALERT (requires registration approval)

Native American Ethnobotany Database

Entheology: Plants (for indigenous plant names and cultures)

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Culturally Significant Plants

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Classification

Useful Tropical Plants Database

DPLA and Wikimedia Commons

In other news, I took a webinar last week on April 21, 2020, sponsored by the Digital Public Library of America and the Wikimedia Foundation, that focused on increasing the discoverability and use of digital media. A system is being set up to upload images from DPLA into Wikimedia Commons that can then be inserted into Wikipedia pages, funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

I’ve already done a little of this with I.W.W. “stickerettes” or “silent agitators” in the Street Art Graphics digital archive. This past year, for example, I uploaded images for the following Wikipedia pages: Silent agitators, “Black Cat” on Anarchist symbolism, “Scab” on Strikebreaker, and “Foundation of the Industrial Workers of the World” under Bill Haywood.

Anyhoo, I reached out to the webinar organizers and expressed my enthusiasm to participate in this endeavor. Given past support for the Street Art Graphics digital archive from the U.S. Council of Independent Colleges, I’m hoping they will contact me. Stay tuned!

Working from home during the COVID-19 crisis: Post #2

Today’s online text chat with Jstor Support:

Catherine Tedford

Apr 6, 15:45 EDT 

Chat started: 2020-04-06 07:32 PM UTC

(07:32:23 PM) Catherine Tedford: Hello! I am cleaning up some metadata fields in St. Lawrence University’s Street Art Graphics collection and trying to revise some text in the Rights field. I don’t seem to have a way to do that myself. Is that something you do on your end?

The sentence currently reads like this:
For information about the St. Lawrence University Street Art Graphics Digital Archive, see http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/copyright/.

And I’d like it to read like this:
See http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/copyright/.

I’m also not seeing default text in my Usage field show up in ADL. It hadn’t been mapped correctly, but I fixed that today and still don’t see it.

Thanks in advance for your help!
(07:32:27 PM) *** EJ joined the chat ***
(07:32:37 PM) EJ: Hi Catherine. Thanks for contacting JSTOR Forum Support!
(07:32:52 PM) EJ: Let me open up your project so I can take a look
(07:33:07 PM) Catherine Tedford: Great, thanks!
(07:35:18 PM) EJ: Are you working with the JSTOR Publishing target or the Artstor publishing target
(07:35:19 PM) EJ: ?
(07:35:29 PM) Catherine Tedford: Both, I think.
(07:35:38 PM) Catherine Tedford: But ADL, for sure.
(07:36:10 PM) EJ: OK, the JSTOR one will probably have to be done on our end. That functionality is brand new as you know, so it requires some intervention from our developers.
(07:36:16 PM) EJ: For the ADL one, I’ll do some testing now
(07:36:42 PM) Catherine Tedford: Perfect.
(07:36:46 PM) EJ: For the rights statement, if you open the ADL publishing target for the project in Admin, you’ll see the option to edit.
(07:37:01 PM) Catherine Tedford: okay, one sec…
(07:37:20 PM) EJ: Thanks for checking!
(07:37:43 PM) Catherine Tedford: There it is. Thank you! Can you help with my other question, too?
(07:38:29 PM) EJ: Sure! Did you update and map that field for records that had already been published? If so, you’ll need to republish them to make the change go through. If it’s a big collection, I can also do the reindexing for you from my end.
(07:38:59 PM) Catherine Tedford: Oh, I see. If you could do it on your end, that would be great.
(07:39:08 PM) Catherine Tedford: It’s a pretty big collection.
(07:39:38 PM) EJ: OK. I’ll start running that now and it should be complete by tomorrow, so I will check back in with you then!
(07:39:43 PM) EJ: Thanks for taking a look at this!
(07:40:22 PM) Catherine Tedford: Very good. Thanks again, I appreciate it. I love how fluid this system is, but I get a hiccup every now and then. 🙂
(07:41:23 PM) EJ: I have the exact same problem sometimes because there’s just so much to keep track of! Let us know if we can help with anything else, and if you have questions about the JSTOR target I can pass those along to the development team as well.
(07:41:46 PM) Catherine Tedford: Sounds good. Take care!
(07:41:56 PM) EJ: You too! Stay well!

Working from home during the COVID-19 crisis: Post #1

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve decided to write about some of the work I’m doing for St. Lawrence University, where I serve as gallery director. I’m hoping I’ll still write about street art stickers here on Stickerkitty, but I’ve been too distracted lately to put my energies there. I’ve also decided to post some materials I’ve compiled over the past few years on family history, especially regarding my father, Rev. Dr. Duane W. Smith, who was active in the U.S. civil rights, women’s rights, and prison reform movements throughout his life. I’ve debated on posting about my dad for several months, and not sure if this was the right forum for it, but now seems like a good time to do so. More on that to follow later.

Non-essential SLU employees were directed to work from home as of Monday, March 23, though the University was on spring break the week before, so things were already pretty quiet on campus. Given that the gallery will now be physically closed until at least June, I’ve decided that the gallery staff (me and Carole Mathey, the assistant director) will focus on three things: digital collection projects (with help from Arline Wolfe, the library’s arts metadata technician), helping the art & art history department’s senior “exhibition,” and student and faculty engagement through social media. This is a version of an email I sent to my supervisor, the dean of academic affairs, last week:

  1. Earlier this year, Jstor contacted me and Eric Williams-Bergen about publishing the Street Art Graphics (SAG) digital archive directly to Jstor (in addition to it currently being published in Artstor and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). SLU would be one of the early image contributors to Jstor. They have now set everything up for me to do this, which I’ll be working on this week.
  2. I’m adding French language stickers to the SAG archive for an upcoming assignment in Eloise Brezault’s FR102 class. This follows assignments that Marina Llorente and Brook Henkel have done previously in other Modern Languages courses (specifically Spanish and German).
  3. The gallery will also publish the ~70 confocal images from Steven White’s and Jill Pflugheber’s Microcosms exhibition in Jstor, Artstor, and the DPLA. This is an important collection in terms of content that is unparalleled internationally. I anticipate a high degree of interest from the science/art community over this collection. Since it’s an entirely new collection, it’s going to take a little time to figure out metadata fields, etc., but totally do-able. [Steve teaches in Modern Languages and Jill teaches in the Biology department.]
  4. As mentioned in a previous email, we’re also creating a new Japanese Ukiyo-e and Mokuhanga Prints image collection for Melissa Schulenberg’s printmaking and First-Year Seminar students. The collection will be based on prints in SLU’s permanent collection.
  5. We’re also helping Sarah Knobel with her SYE “exhibition,” though we’re not sure yet what platform will be used.

Focusing first on the Japanese print collection, I spent a few days last week compiling a “data dictionary and cataloguing guide,” based on templates created by the Visual Resources Association and Artstor. We can also add customized metadata fields as needed. The dictionary and guide is included at the end of this post.

Ralph Kiggell, Yotsuya Schoolgirls,
water-based woodcut print on tosa kozo; mokuhanga, SLU 2013.19

Yesterday, I configured the metadata fields in Jstor Forum, the cataloguing environment that then publishes content to “targets” (Artstor, Jstor, DPLA).


The next step was to create the cataloguing form in which we will enter metadata (in this case, textual data about visual images).

Later today, I will do the last step, which is to make sure our metadata fields are mapped to the right targets. I need to do some research to remember how to do this, but luckily Jstor Forum has a robust online support system, and I was able to chat with someone yesterday via text when I ran into a few snags.

The last time I did all of this was in 2015 for the Street Art Graphics digital archive, when I had someone from Artstor guide me through all of the steps. This time, I’m on my own and needless to say, it’s slow going, but fun. One has to determine what sort of data about an image would be useful for teaching and research and then work backwards to figure out the cataloguing.

Here below is what I’ve come up with so far. I grouped most of the fields together based on how we do 3×5-inch labels for artworks in an exhibition (artist, title, date, medium, dimensions, credit line) and left the others at the end.

Japanese Ukiyo-e and Mokuhanga Prints from St. Lawrence University’s Permanent Collection: Data Dictionary and Cataloguing Guidelines

(All fields are public unless otherwise noted.)

ARTIST

1. Creator: Linked Authority Field

Name, brief biographical information, and roles (if necessary) of the named creator or creators in the design and production of the work, presented in a syntax suitable for display to the end-user and including any necessary indications of uncertainty, ambiguity, and nuance. Controlled list is based on Shared Shelf Names, ULAN and Library of Congress Name Authority File (NAF).

TITLE

2. Title: Text Field

Titles, identifying phrases, or names given to a work of art, architecture, or material culture.

3. Title – Alternative: Text Field

Additional or variant text. 

4. Title – Translation: Text Field

Translation of title into English.

MEDIUM

5. Artstor Classification: List Field

Term used to categorize a work by grouping it together with other works on the basis of similar characteristics, including materials, form, shape, function, etc. A list of the 16 terms accepted by Artstor may be provided.

6. Work Type: Linked Authority Field

Term or terms identifying the specific kind of object or work being described. Controlled List is based on AAT.

7. Materials/Techniques: Linked Authority Field

Indication of the substances or materials used in the creation of a work, as well as any implements, production or manufacturing techniques, processes, or methods incorporated in its fabrication, presented in a syntax suitable for display to the end-user and including any necessary indications of uncertainty, ambiguity, and nuance. Controlled List is based on AAT.

8. Style – Period: Linked Authority Field

Term that identifies the named, defined style, historical or artistic period, movement, group, or school whose characteristics are represented in the work being catalogued. Controlled List is based on AAT.

9. State/Edition: Text Field

Description of the state of the work and/or the edition of the work; used primarily for prints and other multiples.

10. Inscriptions: Text Field

Description or transcription of any distinguishing or identifying physical lettering, annotations, texts, markings, or labels that are affixed, applied, stamped, written, inscribed, or attached to the work, excluding any mark or text inherent in the materials of which the work was made.

DATE

11. Date: Text Field

Concise description of the date or range of dates associated with the creation, design, production, presentation, performance, construction, or alteration of the work or its components, presented in a syntax suitable for display to the end-user and including any necessary indications of uncertainty, ambiguity, and nuance.

12. Artstor Earliest Date: Number Field

Year that broadly delimits the beginning of an implied date span.

13. Latest Date: Number Field

Year that broadly delimits the end of an implied date span.

OTHER

14. Measurements: Text Field

Information about the dimensions, size, or scale of the work, presented in a syntax suitable for display to the end-user and including any necessary indications of uncertainty, ambiguity, and nuance. Ex: 8 x 10 inches (plate); 12 x 14 inches (sheet)

15. Artstor Country: List Field

A type of “nationality” field, though not in adjectival form; country refers to the modern name of the country from which the artist came. A list of those currently in use by Artstor may be provided. [Accept multiple values.]

16. Location: Linked Authority Field

Geographic location of the item/creator (City or City, State). Controlled List is based on Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN).

17. Language: Linked Authority Field

Language or languages in which the item is written.  Controlled List is based on Library of Congress ISO 639-1 Languages and AAT.

18. Description: Text Area

Text that describes the content and context of the work, including comments and an interpretation that may supplement, qualify, or explain the physical characteristics, subject, circumstances of creation or discovery, or other information about the work.

19. Subject: Linked Authority Field

Terms that identify, describe, and/or interpret what is depicted in and by a work. Controlled List is based on Thesaurus f Geographic Names, AAT, and Library of Congress Subject Headings.

20. Repository: Text Field

The name and geographic location of the repository that is currently responsible for the work.

Use: Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY)

21. SLU ID Number: Text Field

The gallery-assigned unique numeric or alphanumeric identification of the image.

22. Rights: List Field

The copyright status of the digital object. Recommended best practice is to use a controlled statement from RightsStatements.org. Ex: Depending on date, choose either:

23. License: List Field (DO NOT USE)

The terms under which the digital object may be used by others. License text “Use of this image is in accordance with Artstor’s Terms and Conditions of Use” will appear automatically.

24. Exhibition History: List Field

Exhibition history. Use Controlled List. [Accept multiple values.]

25. Notes: Text Area

Any additional misc. information to be shared publicly.

26. Local Notes: Text Area (Hidden)

Internal information not to be shared publicly. Field should be hidden but searchable.

27. Original Filename: Text Field (Hidden)

Original image filename. Field should be hidden but searchable.

28. Student Cataloguer: List Field

Select name from Controlled List.

Appendix: Reference Words (authorities, schemata, thesauri)

Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)

Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO)

Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA)

CDWA-lite

Iconclass

Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF)

Library of Congress Subject Authority File (LCSAF)

Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)

Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)

VRA Core 4.0


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