a scholarly quarterly journal presenting original articles, commentary, discussions, film reviews, and book reviews on anthropological and ethnographic topics,
according to the title's listing on web site of the publisher, Routledge. It is issued by the Commission on Visual Anthropology, a branch of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES).
Experts in the field also examine visual symbolic forms from a cultural-historical framework and provide a cross-cultural study of art and artifacts. Visual Anthropology also promotes the study, use, and production of anthropological and ethnographic films, videos, and photographs for research and teaching.
The journal frequently, if not always consistently, publishes articles of particular interest to research on the Museum's object collection. Last year's double issue (v. 17, no. 3-4, July-Dec. 2004), entitled Confronting World Art, features articles on Aboriginal Australian acrylic painting (Myers), contemporary Papua New Guinea art (Lewis-Harris), Zapotec trade textiles (Tiffany), art and tourism on the Swahili coast (Kasfir), and indigenous museums in Melanesia (Stanley).
Libraries Respond to Spiraling Costs
Yet an annual subscription, whether in print, online, or print and online versions, costs $936. (A print subscription to Res, by comparison, costs $64 a year.) The Goldwater Library subscribed to Visual Anthropology a decade ago, when the annual price was a significantly lower, but still outrageous, $200. I was compelled to discontinue our subscription for economic reasons during one of the Museum's periodic fiscal crises: On balance the journal is just not as proportionately valuable to our readers as its price would suggest.
VA epitomizes the trend in spiraling journal subscription costs, once the bane only of science libraries but now a concern shared by all academic and scholarly libraries. Faced with costs rising faster than budgets, some libraries have taken to factoring in a title's usage in cost-benefit analyses of their subscription lists, with an eye to winnowing down the total number of journal subscriptions. For a research library such as the Goldwater, with its specialized scope and limited audience, such analysis would be largely meaningless. Well-intentioned consortial solutions, such as cooperative acquisitions among institutional libraries (such as within the Met) or across institutions, prove administratively unworkable.
This price trend is strangely unaffected by the growing availability of electronically accessible journal titles, particularly when the print and online prices are identical or nearly so. Subscribing to the electronic version of a journal, while saving libraries the significant long-term costs of maintaining, circulating and preserving the print version, is no less expensive in its initial outlay. And electronic access to a journal does not always insure complete access to that journal. At this writing the online full-text version of VA--whether via EBSCOnet or IngentaConnect--begins with volume 15, number 3 (2002) only, though this title may well become more fully available as time passes.
VA is an example of a title available as a one-off subscription. By contrast third-party providers such as JSTOR provide buyers with collections of titles based on broadly defined subject areas--in essence, a shopping cart's worth of titles. Any price benefit gained by combining valuable titles is offset by the high price tag on each shopping cart. And JSTOR maintains a "moving wall" for some titles that "seeks to avoid jeopardizing publishers' subscriptions and revenue opportunities from current and recent material." To get those first five years' worth of a title, you either must subscribe to them or wait out the moving wall. The end result: Pay up or shut up.
One alternative strategy would be to secure only those articles most important to your readers. In the case of VA, individual articles can be purchased online (through IngentaConnect) for $32.94 apiece. While museum staff may also request copies of individual articles through interlibrary loan, copyright guidelines constrain libraries "with respect to any given periodical" from filling requests "within any calendar year for a total of six or more copies of an article or articles published in such periodical within five years prior to the date of the request." (emphasis added)
In the end, the only viable option may be to send your readers out on their own to locate and secure important serial titles. Fortunately readers in the New York City area can gain access to copies of VA at any of several area libraries:
- Columbia University (Lehman Library, call no. GN 347.V57; also available electronically by users affiliated with Columbia University)
- New York Public Library (Humanities - Periodicals Room, call no. JFL 99-640)
- New York University (Bobst Library, call no. GN 347.V57; also available electronically by users affiliated with NYU)
One solution: Donate your photocopies to the library when you're done, everyone benefits, and no one is the worse for it!