Deconstructing Neutrality: Hope Olson, Classification Bias, and the Library of Congress Fine Arts Range
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Neutrality is one of the founding principles of library classification; however, systems reflect the biases of the people and societies that created them. Library neutrality is, in fact, a myth. This presentation will discuss the poststructuralist work of radical cataloguer Hope Olson, who argues that systems like Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) are inherently prejudiced because of their use of universality, sameness and difference, and hierarchy based in Aristotelian logic. This is problematic because, according to Olson, DDC and LCC function as a third-space, a place where meaning is created. Once this foundation has been laid, this presentation links Olson’s work to bias present in the Fine Arts range of LCC. The Fine Arts range is divided primarily by medium. While each of the “fine” arts are given their own subdivisions the “craft” art mediums are all located under one subdivision, NK Decorative Arts, giving them a lesser than status. Art historians have argued that the higher status traditionally given to “fine” arts in comparison to “craft” or “decorative” arts in the West, something clearly seen in LCC, is a consequence of patriarchal and colonialist power systems.
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