Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Museum Meets the Mind of a Library Student

by Barbara Cardinale

Documenting the Contemporary Art Museum's collection has been an anticipated project for CAM, so Peter Foe, Curator of the Collection, and Shannon Annis, Registrar, put their heads together to create what is now known as the Museum at Work exhibition project.  It’s really wonderful to be a part of such an inventive project and I hope to learn more about the world of art handling and how it relates to library work. 

The first week of the project was decidedly technical.  Peter, Shannon, six other bloggers and I discussed the basics of the blog and what was to be expected of its contents.  Foremost, the individual perspective was stressed as different educational interests in the project will determine invigorating entries.  During the rest of the week, I worked on the blog presence and managed our personal email account.  Peter also asked me to help him set the backdrop for a translucent work by Claus Oldenberg, so a white background was necessary to accurately document the art piece.  

The second week was more hands on, but I was still engaged in working on the blog.  Taking Enaam’s advice, I set up a google documents workspace for us bloggers to more succinctly share our thoughts before publishing them here.  Stepping away from the digital realm a bit, I engaged in helping Peter, Shannon and students/ volunteers transport and store what consisted mostly of large-scale paintings.   Theoretically, moving larger works will help us amateur art-handlers learn the technicalities and precision of the art of moving art.  The Museum at Work project is like a life-exercise in postmodernism.  

Also during the second week, Shannon inculcated to us the semantics of the database program, Embark.  This is an art-storing program that manages, records, locates, dates, compiles, etc. all of the artworks in the collection.  Since there around 5,000 different pieces of art stored in the vault, a digital program like this takes the burden off the human brain.   I am interested in how the museum registrar tracks its inventory because in a library's archives, the provenance of a research collection or personal papers is a vital aspect of acquiring and processing the materials so their place and research value is accommodated for.  I can’t wait until next week when I can meddle with Embark more and further investigate the similarities and differences between the museum registrar and the library archivist. 

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