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The Serving Library maintains a collection of framed objects, each the source of an illustration that has appeared on the pages of our journal or its predecessors Bulletins of The Serving Library (2011–2017) and Dot Dot Dot (2000–2010). The collection includes items as diverse as record sleeves, watercolors, woodcuts, polaroids, drawings, screen-prints, airbrush paintings, a car number plate, and a ouija board. Together these varied objects decorate the walls of the library to be drawn into our programs, essentially serving as a toolbox for teaching.

The collection can be previewed here, with a corresponding PDF of images and captions here, plus an early account of the idea here.

It is also possible for other institutions to borrow one or more of the objects by arrangement. For more information about loans contact francesca@servinglibrary.org

The collection has accumulated over time, expanding gradually with the support of countless colleagues and institutions as it passed through various host venues across Europe and North America before arriving at a location of its own in Liverpool in June 2016 — first at a storefront in the city’s old mercantile district, and then at Exhibition Research Lab in the School of Art & Design, Liverpool John Moores University from April 2017 – October 2018.

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Originally under the auspices of Dot Dot Dot, early exhibitions of the material included shows at Kaleri Tartu, Estonia (2005), Lyon Biennial (2007), Kunstverein München (2008), Culturgest Porto (2009), OCA, Oslo (2009), Kunstverein, Amsterdam (2010), and Liveinyourhead, Geneva (2010). The collection was then incorporated into The Serving Library when it was formally established in 2011, and immediately put to pedagogical use during “From the Toolbox of a Serving Library,” a six-week summer school at The Banff Centre, Canada (2011). From there it traveled to New York, first showcased at Artists Space (2012), then part of an evolving group show called The End(s) of the Library at the Goethe-Institut Library (2013).

A year later, and by now filling four shipping crates, the collection landed in the UK to hang for a season within an eccentric structure designed by French architect Claude Parent at Tate Liverpool (2014). Next was a brief stint of “Open Storage” in the foyer of The School of Art & Design at LJMU (2015) with a single object on view every few weeks, followed by another iteration as part of the group show “Resource” at Bluecoat (2015). In 2016 The Serving Library moved into its first dedicated space at the historic India Buildings in downtown Liverpool, then returned to LJMU’s Exhibition Research Lab in 2017, where it remained until late 2018. While resident at LJMU, objects from the collection were exhibited at CCA Glasgow and Kunsthalle Wien. The archive is currently on show until 15 December 2018 at Nottingham Trent University’s Bonington Gallery, in visual dialogue with a new large commission by English artist David Osbaldeston.

A book comprising an Extended Caption was published by Roma Publications in tandem with the Porto exhibition in 2009.