One of Corita’s “rules” for her students was “save everything.” In considering the role of a university museum collection such as the Grunwald Center, this admonition seems an appropriate point of departure for a brief discussion of the nature of institutional art collecting. Institutions cannot, in fact, save everything, and their forced selections determine to a certain extent how successive generations view and value art and cultural history. Thus, in making art, collecting art, and presenting exhibitions, we are confronted with a similar range of issues involving personal responsibility, guesses about the nature of the past and future needs, and, inevitably, limitations of time and space.
The Grunwald Center Collection comprises more than forty thousand prints, drawings, photographs, and artists’ books, primarily by European, American,and Japanese artists from the sixteenth century to the present. With medium— paper—as the primary principle of selection, graphic arts collectionssuch as the Grunwald Center often contain a wide variety of materials. As with other “special collections” in research libraries and archives, only a fraction of the holdings comes to public view in exhibitions. These collections typically range in date and place of origin from early Renaissance Italy to present-day Los Angeles or Mexico City and in type from one-of-a-kind drawings to mass-produced prints. The latter works might take the form of sixteenth-century “posters” intended to be pasted on city walls, eighteenth-century broadsheets, or illustrations for modern journals and newspapers. Their ephemeral nature and often-inexpensive materials ensure that what was once plentiful, and hardly “collectible,”is now rare. The growing interest—in both academic and museum circles—in what is often referred to as “visual culture” has also enhanced the intellectual and monetary value of such materials. But the question ofwhat to collect—given limitations of time, space, and funds—remains acomplex one. What most accurately represents a culture: a modest book of illustrated homilies, a broadsheet about a notorious trial or treaty, asketch for a connoisseur, or an engraving by Albrecht Dürer?
Included in the Grunwald collection are a large number of works by artists who created political and social satire, most notably the nineteenth- century satirists Honoré Daumier and George Cruikshank. The Corita Kent archive is part of this tumultuous tradition of social and political art. This area of collecting is a particular strength of the Grunwald Center and is especially appropriate to a collection belonging to a university where history, politics, and culture are examined in detail from a variety of perspectives.