Today marks the launch of West 86th Online, the digital supplement to West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, published by the University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. We’d like to welcome you and give you a taste of what our journal has to offer. As Paul Stirton, our Editor-in-Chief, mentions in his introductory comments in the first pages of the first issue of our new journal (Vol. 18 No. 1, due out later this month), “West 86th aims to bring interested scholars together. There is no narrow manifesto, and no methodological axe to grind.” Words to live by, whether in print or online.
This site runs parellel to both our print journal and the digital version of the journal available to subscribers through JSTOR. Some things you ought to know about it: first, it is entirely free; second, its contents are unbound and may range further afield than what we allow into typesetting, printing, and binding; third, some of what appears here first—like Tony Cutler’s authoritative article Carving, Recarving, and Forgery: Working Ivory in the Tenth and Twentieth Centuries, and Ben Kafka’s lovely piece on the value and meaning Roland Barthes placed in what most would regard as the humdrum of everyday administrative work—will appear in forthcoming print issues; and fourth, there is always room for improvement.
To quote Paul again (something I have grown rather fond of since I began working with him), “It may seem reckless to be launching a print journal in 2011.” In part, that is why this site exists—to stave off recklessness. But it is here in the digital arena where we also hope to make some of our biggest discoveries and experience some of our highest moments (along with the inevitable lows of formatting for the web, sorting through frivolous and sometimes sordid comments, and competing for a domain name with a barely active neighborhood association in Indiana). Along with publishing selected articles and reviews from our print publication, we also want to break new ground by publishing first online and allowing authors and scholars to experiment with new forms, new lengths, and new modes of communication. We’d like our articles to begin conversations that can continue on this site and spin off in directions that may lead to new articles that will begin new cycles of publishing and conversation. The more participation we get, obviously the healthier this site will be and the more incentive we’ll have to publish more content online.
So to get the ball rolling, please let us know what you think. Feel free to take issue with us, our authors, and our reviewers.