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Carol Barton papers

Identifier: SC 0274
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Carol Barton Papers, 1973-2015, include catalogues, letters, printed materials, journals, special publications, interviews, artist statements, artist projects, and project plans throughout the donor’s career. The collection includes teaching tools, personal research, practice and planning, and commemoration of events in which Barton participated.


  • Creation: 1973 - 2015


Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The artist would like to be contacted about individual publication requests and requests related to commercial use of these materials. Other copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Carol Barton, born on June 3, 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri, is an accomplished book artist, paper engineer, educator, and curator who has exhibited internationally (The Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art, Victoria and Albert Museum in London) and has curated shows such as Books & Bookends: Science and the Artist’s Book (Smithsonian). Inspired by reading, historical references, functional objects, architecture, and other artists’ book, Barton is best known for her interactive workbooks, The Pocket Paper Engineer. Five Luminous Towers: Books to Read in the Dark, which was awarded the Bogliasco Fellowship in 2000, Vision Shifts, Instructions for Assembly, and Tunnel Map are other major works. A graduate of Washington University School of Fine Arts (1976), Barton has served as a faculty member at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the Corcoran College of Art & Design and has taught at the elementary and high school level. In 1977, Barton moved to Washington D.C. to work for the Glen Echo Park Arts Center. Through her time there and through the promotion of artists’ books by local art group, The Writer’s Center, Barton learned pre-press skills that allowed her to print her own work. She was later offered a small grant to produce her own artists’ books. Having grown up as the daughter of a diesel engine mechanic, Barton’s love for structural and mechanical elements was formed as she grew up building and playing with construction games and tinker toys. Movable books, better known as pop-ups, were not a part of her childhood. However, after the success of her first book, Beyond the Page (1981), Barton began a two year study of pop-up and movable books at the Dibner Rare Book Library and the Library of Congress to find early examples of dimensional and movable books. This research most likely resulted in her 1988 publication of her tunnel book, Everyday Road Signs.

In 1992, Barton served as James Madison University’s first Wampler Visiting Professor of Fine Art and has intermittently served as a visiting artist and professor. JMU Libraries acquired Barton’s collection of artists’ and movable books in 2015, and in March 2017 Barton returned to JMU as a guest lecturer for the Carrier Library Special Collections Speaker Series. The event was marked with Barton discussing her career and work; as well as, facilitating a book arts workshop with the Intermediate book arts students, and ending with a public lecture and reception in the Duke Hall Gallery Court.


6.67 cubic feet (18 boxes, 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The Carol Barton Papers, 1973-2015, contain printed materials, letters, brochures, and primary materials as well as items that document professional endeavors, artistic processes, and personal items of book artist, paper engineer, teacher, and curator, Carol Barton.


The collection is arranged into three series. All series are arranged chronologically. All folders and boxes are arranged chronologically. Location irregularities are documented in the container list. Exceptions to this arrangement were made in order to group like materials together. In the ‘Exhibition Catalogs, 1993 (folder 2 of 2)’, a digital floppy disk of Barton’s exhibition, Miliseconds to Milennia: The Art of Time, Hand Workshop, has been placed in this folder. The floppy disk is a copy of an old Word Perfect file.

  1. Printed Materials, 1973-2015
  2. Projects and Research, 1975-2012
  3. Ephemera and Personal Papers, 1979-2013

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Carol Barton on March 23, 2017. Manuscript material was also received as part of a 2015 acquisition of Carol Barton's personal and teaching collection of pop-up and artists' books. That material was incorporated into this collection.

Appraisal Note

In addition to analog manuscript material, Carol Barton transferred three digital audio files of podcasts on which she had been a guest including Santa Fe Radio Café (March 17, 2008), Book Artists and Poets (July 15, 2009), and Beyond the Page: Carol Barton's Art and Influence: a podcast with Carol Barton and the Nashville Public Library. These files were not retained and not incorporated into the collection. Select items were discarded from the collection due to preservation concerns, deterioration, duplicates, or preexisting damage.

Related Material

Carol Barton’s personal and teaching collection of movable books and artists’ books, which were acquired separately from her papers, are cataloged individually and are housed in the James Madison University’s Special Collections.

Separated Material

Numerous books, artists’ books, toys, and publications were pulled from the collection, cataloged individually, and added to Special Collections' rare book holdings. Ker-Bloom!, a series of art publications, were also separated and cataloged.


  • Grace Barth, Liana Bayne, and Caroline Hamby. “History of Pop-up and Movable Books, About This Exhibit.” Carol Barton Collection, JMU Special Collections. Accessed September, 2018,
  • Barton, Carol. "Popular Kinetics Press." Accessed September, 2018.
  • National Museum of Women. “About the Artist, Carol Barton”. Accessed September 2018.

Processing Information

The papers were originally stored in 14 boxes and 2 oversize file folders. Upon acquisition the collection did not have a specified arrangement. The collection is arranged based on like materials and topics. Items that were not pertinent to the collection such as duplicates or papers not pertaining to Carol Barton were discarded. In some cases only representative samples of materials were retained that best exemplify Barton’s work

A Guide to the Carol Barton Papers, 1973-2015
Renessa Rabenda
February 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612