Recap Brunch

It was a tradition with my husband’s friends to get together for brunch the day after a raucous party to recap everything for maximum clarity and impact. This is less salacious but no less frenetic as I try to recap the most important points of the past two weeks.

Great guide: Paige Morgan’s How to Get a Digital Humanities Project Off the Ground was clear, concise, and totally on the level. I made lots of useful notes on everything from making decisions about messy data (it’s not all from my MARC records) and considering problems as sources of potential articles and presentations.

Finally get Omeka working for our collections: I’ve been considering an Omeka site for probably five years, but have gotten nowhere. These two weeks got me off the ground, I have a place to experiment, work out the kinks, and then launch a pilot project of a small set of digitized photographs. I have questions about renaming display field tags, editing multiple items at once (applying global values), and creating static pages to serve as a home page and I feel that these are all easily answerable. Having a little more experience with the platform, I want to go back and spend time with  Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the Turn of the 20th Century that my colleagues at the Frick and Brooklyn Museum created. And I need to re-read the associated Guide to undertaking small digitization projects.

Spread the love: I’ll certainly share the fun and easy tools like ThingLink and Animoto with Education and Communications departments who will surely run with them and put them to infinitely clever uses.

Don’t lose my momentum with collection data: I need to pursue my contact at the Smithsonian who also uses our collection management system and ask about importing the AAT to the internal thesaurus. then create a practical plan for assigning some objective subjects such as landscapes, still lifes, portraits, to enable better search and retrieval. I hope I am not wrong in assuming that since it is now available as linked open data that my institution would not have to license the thesaurus as it would have had to in the past.

Lions, and Tigers, and Pythons: I often know enough about technology to think that anything is possible, which is frustrating because it typically is possible, just not with the skills that I have. But that also leads me to hack through things and learn something useful from time to time. Spencer encouraged me to experiment with learning a bit of Python scripting to help me isolate and export provenance data from some catalog Word docs that I have with the intention of formatting it and ingesting it into our CMS. Hey, why not?

I’ve never been good with plot: I will work to formulate my desires for a DH project utilizing some of the data collections I have identified- provenance, hanging files, ledger books, exhibition history. As Sharon and Sheila reminded me, and as we’ve talked about for two weeks without it somehow really sinking in– I need some questions to guide my exploration. I can’t just throw all my available data into spreadsheets, stick it in to some tools, and expect to have arrived somewhere significant. What do I want to learn that I don’t know now or what do I want to demonstrate that I’m unable to now? How can I present these sets of data in combinations that are significant and accessible and responsive to different perspectives? And what opportunities are there for this information to be opened up to communicating with other sympathetic sources of data, possibly from other institutions?

Viewshare fun: I want to experiment more with Viewshare. I did finally get my data successfully uploaded- a spreadsheet of acquisitions from the earliest in 1911 to 1935- only to discover that my data tidying had inadvertently changed all of the acquisition dates to 1935. I am curious how this tool can help me to develop directions of exploration at this early stage.

Putting it all out there: I want to prepare and release an API for our collection data. This is such a simple thing to do and I know I can make a convincing arguments to the deciding parties at my museum. It demonstrates the institution’s commitment to open data and experimentation.

And now for something completely different: Finally, I would like to think that I could use some of the tools we’ve learned in creating a personal project, something related to street art, using maps and photographs to document distribution of murals in Richmond, Virginia. I first need to do an environment scan (new phrase I learned today) to be sure that I am not duplicating someone else’s efforts. Wonder if any of our mapping tools create good mobile products?

A big thank you to our fearless, tireless, endlessly patient, profoundly informed leaders, Sheila and Sharon, and their team of graduate students who I dubbed “the table of wisdom”. And to all of my fellow institute-rs, you were all so generous with your own experiences, knowledge, sympathies, inspiration, and humor. I can’t imagine a better group. Onward and upward!

Source: Recap Brunch

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

Blogging Guidelines for Institutions

In case my colleagues at Doing DAH are interested, below is a link to the blogging guidelines that my museum’s blog team created. There is some guidance about best practices and image use. Feel free to download.

Blogging for The Phillips Collection_Updated 2013

Also, not to toot my own horn, I published an article on institutional blogging in Art Documentation, Spring 2014. It is available with a JSTOR subscription.

History, Identity and 21st Century Skills: Experiments in Institutional Blogging

Platform Test Drives

Our afternoon was devoted to hands-on time with one- or more- of the presented platforms for our projects: Omeka, Drupal, or Scalar. I chose Drupal, but ended up spending much of the work time waiting for my site to generate. I got an email on my way home that the site was now available. So this evening, on my own, I gave it a try.

I chose Drupal because I liked the idea of doing something more like the hmtl websites that I had done in the past as opposed to my perception of Omeka, which seemed like more of a one-to-one presentation type tool. My institution has adopted Drupal for it’s content management system and I have attended one rudimentary training session. I found the session to be uninformative, despite Drupal being billed as akin to WordPress which I feel very comfortable with. I thought that starting on my own and using that I would find it easier to use. I did not. I was able to make one entry on something that I wanted to be a static page- simply text, and image, and an image caption. I knew there must be a way to format my image caption, but it was not readily evident to me. I also had a problem with word wrapping in my central column. I explored different control elements in the dashboard and felt pretty lost. I decided to try Omeka to get more momentum for my project and to keep from feeling discouraged at this early stage.

Omeka would be a good platform for a photo project that I have started. I am scanning photographs that I will then catalog at item level in MARC in my library catalog. I can then export those records as a CSV, crosswalk my MARC fields to Dublin Core, then use the Omeka CSV plugin to import them. I decided to experiment with a set of ten objects from our permanent collection, all collected in 1919, whose description data I happened to have in a spreadsheet already. I watched the screencast on using the CSV plugin and learned that I will need help setting up my FTP client to upload my spreadsheet. Moving on, I thought that maybe I could import the images that I will later attach to that data. I made the mistake of adding all of the images as one item, realizing that the best method is probably to upload the data, then upload and link the image files.

Scalar, which I saw demonstrated at the American Art History and Digital Scholarship symposium in the fall, was clearly not appropriate for my topic, at least at this stage. Perhaps as I continue to collect and analyze the collection data I’m interested in and a narrative is formed around my observations, Scalar could be a way to present the entirety of my project. But for now, I’m not dealing with a lot of content and I am not working on a narrative.

Source: Platform Test Drives

Identifying Resources

My proposed project is introspective in that it begins with the materials in my institution’s collection. However, I enjoy thinking of this project reaching the point where it could be expanded to include corresponding information from other institutions that were collecting related works, collecting from the same dealers/galleries/artists, and that have records of installation for 1920s-1940s.

As for outside resources that could provide some context or additional information, these are ones I would use:

MOMA Archives: There is a lot of relevant information in the institutional archives here. The Exhibition Files Checklist is a growing resource and the upcoming information going back to 1929 would make for a good comparison to my museum’s exhibition history. (Though I am interested in permanent collection installation rather than special exhibitions.) MOMA also contributed installation photographs to Artstor, some of which date back to 1929.

Archives of American Art: A portion of our founder’s correspondence is in the collection of AAA, so naturally that would be useful to consult, either originals or the microfilm collection we have in-house. Also, AAA has digitized a large number of their collections which include not only artists, but also galleries, many of whom did business with our founder. There is a lot to draw from there.

Frick’s Archives Directory for the History of Collecting: This resource provides an index of archives of art collectors, dealers, and gallerists in America found in collections around the country. For example, the record for Katherine Dreier lists 21 collections in 10 repositories that include material related to her as a collector.


Source: Identifying Resources