Plans for the publication of a bibliography of writings concerning art history were announced in the summer of 1974. The project’s vision was born much earlier, in large part influenced by the publication of RILM Abstracts of Music Literature in early 1967.
RILA (Répertoire International de la Littérature de l’Art) borrowed the model for its name from RILM, as well as the concept of international cooperation first proposed at the conference held in Paris under the auspices of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in 1969 and then confirmed in Washington, D.C., under the sponsorship of the College Art Association of America in October 1971. RILA was conceived to provide substantial abstracts and detailed subject indexes of art-historical scholarship concerning post-classical European art and post-conquest American art published in periodicals, books, Festschriften, congress reports, exhibition and museum catalogues, and dissertations.
The project took off in 1973 as the bibliographic pilot project of the American Council of Learned Societies, with the RILM office at the CUNY Graduate Center initially providing editorial and technological support. RILA was intended to be the first addition to a proposed interdisciplinary group of bibliographies in the humanities, initiated with RILM. In the Demonstration issue (above) , which tested RILM’s bibliographic models applied to art-historical literature, the editor Michael Rinehart wrote “Continued regular publication of RILA will depend on response to this issue, and particularly on two factors essential to its long-range success: the willingness of authors to contribute abstracts of their work, and the extension of international participation through a free exchange of materials among existing and future organizations and publications.”
RILA was initially produced with RILM’s computer program, which ran on the IBM mainframe computer System 360 at the computing center of The City University of New York—the most advanced computing machine at the time. RILM’s founder Barry S. Brook was among the key advisors on the project, and the format of the bibliographic entries, the classification schema, and the indexing practices in RILA echoed those in the printed volumes of RILM. In this form RILA (ISSN: 0145-5982) was published by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute from 1975 through 1989, when it merged with Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA).