Thinking About Space

The readings and discussions for today were really interesting, but they again highlighted the myopic nature of my project. (Though I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing!) We looked at the fantastic online article Local/Global: Mapping Nineteenth-Century London’s Art Market, one of the projects that I found very inspiring when I first saw it last year. It reminded me of Stanford’s Mapping the Republic of Letters and a talk given by Christian Huemer at ARLIS/NA 2013 called, “Patterns of Collecting: InfoVis for Art History ,” about analysis that is being performed on the Getty Provenance Index. I guess as a visual person, and a fan of maps, I find these kinds of presentations- ledger book entries or archival items projected onto maps and graphs- to be revelatory and fascinating. How can the idea of space work with my questions about collecting and exhibition of artwork by my institution’s founder?

There is certainly a strong and important element of space/place in the story of my institution. We conducted an oral history with our  installations manager who has been with the museum for over four decades and has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of the collection but a strong memory for changes in our galleries and expanding building. The recording/transcript is a valuable resource to consider issues of scale, access, prominence, groupings, and focus as they relate to the exhibition of permanent collection works. Would it be fruitful to create digital scale models of gallery spaces, past and present, for recreating and reconsidering gallery hangings? It is something our curators do in realia when preparing for exhibitions using foam core maquettes. At this point, I feel like that would be more of a digital flourish than a substantive research tool. However, perhaps as I look at the record of display I will see surprising divergences from the way we approach hanging the collection today. It is my sense that we carry DP’s method closely, but maybe that is overly romantic of me.

What other kinds of data do I have at my disposal that relate to space and to our collection? I could certainly compile information on birth and death locations for artists, but I am not sure how much we would learn from that. Provenance data, specifically in this case the location of transactions, could be very useful but is lacking from many records in our CMS. If it is possible, records of international loans could show the reach of the collection. On our blog, we presented a map created by an online tool that displayed locations of traveling exhibitions since the 1980s. I think something similar done on an item-level would be worthwhile though I do not know how that information is recorded. (*something to investigate when I get back next week.)

In the meantime, I will make my contribution to “the field” by participating in New York Public Library’s Map Warper, which is a delightful tool. As I said on Twitter, our group applauded the demo video.
The first map I did went quickly, finding its place along Edward H. Grant Highway in the Bronx. The next one I tried in Astoria was much more of a mystery. I’m not even certain any of the streets I was looking at in the original map are there anymore. (But, if you know Astoria at all, you know it’s not hard to get lost.)

Source: Thinking About Space