Friday, April 22, 2011

Final Posting

This will be the final posting for this journal/blog. It has been a wonderful semester. I learned much about the creation of archives and the day-to-day operation of an art library. I have enjoyed my time at the Hanson Library and will remember this experience fondly.

Through my coursework I had read about archival organization and description, but it is one thing to read about it, and quite another to experience it first hand. When I first arrived and started to go through the boxes, it was fascinating to discover what I would find next. The documents, correspondence, ephemeral items, and exhibition catalogs all told a different story but added up to reveal the complete history of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Prior to this experience I have never lived in Birmingham, or indeed Alabama. But reflection on working with this archive has given me an understanding of this organization and how it fits within the greater community  of the city of Birmingham. From the struggles of the Birmingham Art Association  in the early 20th Century to create an art museum, through the current stresses of updating the museum Web Site in the 21st, this institution would not thrive without the people providing an energy and a life source. People are at the core of libraries, museums and archives, and it is this human factor which has the greatest significance in communicating history and intellectual development.            

Brandi and I did not get the full archive into the finding aid. We processed a total of about 13 boxes. However, Ms. Preston has assured me that this is OK, as she has a continuous body of library student interns each semester. I hope that they continue what we have started, and have as positive an experience as I did.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week 13

This image shows Brandi as she enters the archived items in the finding aid. As stated in previous blog posts, this is ongoing and will probably take us through the remaining weeks of the semester. Each folder of the archive contains a variety of items. Some folders hold only a single brochure, bookmark or other item. But most contain a variety of material. The photo below illustrates a typical folder, with a reception invitation, exhibition brochure, press release, and exhibition catalog. 

In addition to development of the finding aid, discussion with Ms. Preston this week centered around the research of Edward Tufte. Dr. Tufte is a noted professor from Yale University and has completed research in numerous areas, including that of information design. In this area he is known for the improvement of information graphics such as charts or graphs. His research has focused on  visual literacy, and he has been a noted figure in opposition to programs like Microsoft PowerPoint. More on Dr. Tufte can be read on his Web Site, which is linked here.

The development of the finding aid, and the visual literacy theories of Dr. Tufte combine to form a more concrete example of the abstract terminology frequently found in archival work. These experiences and ideas will be with me, as I move forward in field of Library and Information science.   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Week 12

There was not much work on the archive completed this week because I attended the 2011 Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi. The image below is the event logo. More about the festival can be read here.

Brandi and I did continue adding to the finding aid. Next week I will include some example photographs of the items in each folder.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Week 11

      Brandi and I have continued to enter items in the finding aid for the museum archive. So far we have entered over 200 files, with each file containing at least one item and most with several brochures, exhibition catalogs, press releases etc. This week we also examined the 3-D objects to be included, and discussed options for including them in the finding aid. A screen shot of the finding aid is shown below.

In addition to this there have again been several visitors from area colleges collecting information on artists and artworks for comparative essays. This week I assisted patrons in the collection of information on George Inness, Albert Bierstadt, George Bellows, and John Singer Sargent among others. 

Work on the revised Web Site also continues and a related theme to this ongoing project is the measurement of success among art museums. I was provided an essay published by Maxwell L. Anderson through the Getty Leadership Institute which suggested a new and more relevant method for the  examination of museum metrics. In this paper Anderson explained that the traditional method for measuring museum success was counted on the basis of exhibitions, attendance, and membership. While these factors are important, the author described how these can be false indicators. He wrote that exhibitions create a media sensation and develop notoriety for art museums, but they often also result in a distraction from the permanent collection and stray from the core mission of the museum. Anderson stated that attendance is flawed because these numbers do not correlate to admission fees, leading museums with large attendance numbers to falsely believe they also have larger incomes. The third factor, of membership, does not provide an accurate picture of museum success because membership prices are often set low in order to attract a greater number of members (Anderson 2004). The author explained that this resulted in a deficit, and financial strain for the institution.

Anderson offered an 11 point metric based on output and outcomes that more effectively measure art museum success. Among the 11 points are quality of experience, standards of governance, and contributions to art conservation (Anderson 2004). For quality of experience Anderson developed a survey that examined the visitor's perceptions through his/her response to the collection, retention of information, and possible future visits. With these responses museum personnel could more effectively gauge the art museum with that of other resources in the community, and provide better results to their patrons (Anderson 2004). For standards of governance the author suggested annually evaluating the museum trustees understanding of the museum's mission, and how this purpose has been advanced over the past year. This would thus illustrate success towards the established goal in creating the museum. For the assessment of contributions to art conservation, Anderson suggested an evaluation of the conservators within the museum based on number of hours worked, number of publications, and number of works cared for. These are just a few of the authors assessment marks, a partial adoption of his methods, or a modification of his ideas could be considered in the development of a broader understanding of art museum successes.

Anderson, M. L. (2004) Metrics of Success in Art Museums. Getty Leadership Institute, J. Paul Getty Trust. 1200 Getty Center Drive Los Angeles, CA 90049.                      

Friday, March 25, 2011

Week 10

Brandi, and I have finished placing the archive material in archive standard files and boxes. We have begun entering items in the finding aid. There are many artifacts, and the entry of these items will most likely take the rest of the semester to finish. Brandi had worked on another finding aid, so her insights in constructing the finding aid for this archive were helpful.

In thinking about the organization and construction of the finding aid for this archive, I viewed an on-line presentation developed by Eloquent Systems Inc. An more detailed explanation of their services can be found here. The company representatives explained their product, and provided examples form the Toronto Archives (one of their current clients). A screen shot from the presentation is pictured below.

The program by Eloquent Systems provides a finding aid, as well as an interactive on-line presence for your archive. With this system, patrons can search and view items within the archive from any computer located worldwide. There are many features for entry, including the development of tags, and authority files for individual items within the archive. The archivist can also choose which information is public, and which is private, and the database can either self generate accession numbers, or they can be entered manually. It was a very impressive program. 

In addition, this week a number of students from area colleges came to the library to conduct research on comparative art papers. When Ms. Preston was assisting a patron, and another would arrive, I would assist the newcomer. They had many questions, and I attempted to answer as many as I could. It is good to get feedback, and one patron e-mailed Ms. Preston, saying I was very helpful.   

Finally, the new Web Site has been launched. There are still a few minor problems to be ironed out, but the new Site is an improvement. A link to the Web Page is here.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 9

      Ms. Preston was out for the week, and Brandi was off for spring break. I therefore learned much about the running of a library/archive/information center first hand. It was an active and enriching experience.
      I assisted patrons as they came into the library, I fielded reference questions, and also managed to begin work on the creation of a finding aid for the archive. There were two patrons that came into the library looking for information on Wedgwood Jasperware. I helped them access the library online catalog, and assisted them in locating the material they were looking for. They were very impressed with the collection, and explained that they had no idea this library existed. I was happy to help them, and invited them to return in the future.
      For the finding aid, I began to compose the scope and content. When this archive is finished, it will have approximately 20-25 boxes, and contain a number of items related to the founding, history and development of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Most of the items will be arranged alphabetically. However, a few items ( correspondence for example) will be arranged chronologically. It is my hope that this archive is easy to access, and easy to follow for many years to come.   

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week 8

The additions to the Web Site are proceeding. I attended the meeting that unveiled the new Web Site to the various department heads within the museum. The image below illustrates the current museum home page.

At this time the Web Site is very basic. The new Site will feature more content in the collection, exhibitions, and calendar sections, as well as in other blocks. The new site is cleaner and easier to navigate. All of the department heads were very impressed, and offered very positive feedback. The site is expected to launch on March 21. Ms. Preston, and several others have been working very hard to update this Site, and the improvements that will be made available will benefit everyone.

In addition, work on the institutional archive continues. Another graduate student from the University of Alabama (Brandi), has come onto the project. She completed work on one of the Wedgwood archives, and will now help with the creation of the finding aid, and final preservation of the institutional archive.    

The image on top shows the files as they were sorted form their original boxes. The lower image illustrates how they are being stored alphabetically in archival standard files and boxes. With the help of Brandi, this project will begin to move much faster.