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.