Art for the Asking: 60 Years of the Graphic Arts Loan Collection

Art for the Asking: 60 Years of the Graphic Arts Loan Collection

The Graphic Arts Loan Collection (GALC) is a collection of framed, original lithographs, etchings, engravings and other works of art that students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley can borrow from the Morrison Library.

This program started in 1958 under the direction of Herwin Schaefer, a Professor in the Decorative Arts program at UCB, who believed that the best way to foster an appreciation of art is for students to live with original prints for a term. Funding for the nucleus of the collection was provided by the Columbia Foundation and the International Graphic Arts Society.

During the inaugural exhibition in 1958, more than 5,000 guests passed through the Morrison Library to view this amazing collection of art. The prints were displayed for two weeks for anyone to view before they become available to any registered UC Berkeley student to rent for a single dollar. All of the 158 prints in the collection that first year were borrowed within two hours. Over the years, it was common for students to line up the night before the prints would start circulating in order to get the prints they desired. At the beginning of the spring quarter in 1967, David Smith, a biology student waited 25 hours and 15 minutes to borrow a lithograph by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

There are currently nine other art lending programs at universities and colleges in the United States, but the Graphic Arts Loan Collection at the Morrison Library has the distinction of being the only one of these programs run by a university library. All the others are run by university art museums. As of now, the GALC has more than 900 prints in its collection, with around 100 that are too valuable to circulate. Some of these prints that do not normally circulate can be found on the walls and in the cases of this exhibit.

In 2008, on the program’s 50th anniversary, the prints in the collection were digitized for students to review on a new online catalog, and the paper check-out cards were replaced with barcodes on the prints that allowed the prints to be borrowed through the Library’s online catalog. As a result, students might not line up anymore outside the Doe Library to get their prints, but they do get up early to request prints through their computers as soon as the prints begin circulating each year. This usually results in over 200 requests in the first few days the program is open.

Even with all the changes the GALC has gone through in the last 60 years—including discontinuing rental fees and allowing students to borrow prints for a full academic year—Professor Schaefer’s vision for the collection remains: to put original art in the hands of students.