The large gallery of the Zanesville Museum of Art digitizes pieces
ZANESVILLE – The large gallery at the Zanesville Art Museum, which once housed orderly exhibits, is now filled with rows of tables, each in turn filled with sculptures and pottery. Resembling a garage sale than a typical museum, the scene represents one of the most important projects that ZMA has undertaken.
Closed since March of last year, the Zanesville Museum of Art took advantage of this closure to develop both online programming and digitize its collection. Digitization involves photographing and cataloging the museum’s collection – over 8,500 pieces.
Addressing three-dimensional pieces first, like sculptures and pottery, Laine Snyder, the museum’s executive director, said the process allows the ZMA to reassess its collection, rediscovering pieces that may not have been on display for years.
“By having all the pieces in the open, we see them, we evaluate them and see what we can use to have different exposures,” she said.
The process has been going on for over a year. “We retrained all of the staff to work on the collections,” Snyder said. “The inventory of collections is a major component in obtaining accreditation from the American Alliance of Art Museum, so we must count, document and digitize each work in our collection.”
Piece by piece, art emerges from the storage space of museum collections. Each piece is photographed from multiple angles, and every available information is put into the digital file.
Almost surrounded by a tent-shaped backdrop, Kathryne Applegate, ZMA’s collection coordinator, does the photography. “For each set of photos, in the first image, we include the object’s identification number and a scale. Then we photograph the front, back, top and bottom, as well as the signature or number. of the artist (symbol used in place of a signature). ” she said. She then examines each piece, reciting to scanning partner Misty Johnson, the museum’s education coordinator, a description of the piece. The description is so comprehensive that it includes the smallest imperfections in each piece, from cracks caused by the creative process to subtle variations in shape or size. Any damage to a piece is noted, an important consideration for pieces that may be removed from the museum’s collection.
“Part of the reason the process takes so long,” Johnson said, “is that for each of the 8,500 pieces we have, we not only have to identify it in order to complete our records, we have to research every item. . A lot of work is required not only to get the images from these recordings, but also to populate these recordings so that they are actually useful. “
The stories behind the coins are in some cases as important as the coins themselves, Snyder said.
Holding a small brown ceramic globe, with a pinched top and a small beak-like opening, she said not everyone would see the significance of the piece and question its connection to the museum. “He’s actually a very important Japanese-American artist,” she said. “We have to tell people why it’s important. You might look at it and think it doesn’t matter, but when we talk about it and talk about who donated, it has a much richer meaning for it. all of us.”
Additionally, the research shed light on familiar names, donors who impacted the museum, and stories that may have been forgotten for years. “It’s great to discover these stories because it’s the connection with the community that we need to strengthen, we can also hear their stories,” she said.
The process helped staff become aware of the form and scope of the collection, its strengths and shortcomings.
Part of the unearthed inventory is a collection of Mexican folk art, brought back from Mexico by the museum’s former president, Dr Charles Deeds. Comprised of what Snyder calls high-quality pieces, the collection hasn’t been on display since the 1980s, or perhaps before. Once the collection is online, the public will be able to view the pieces even if they are not on display.
The process will also likely result in the departure of some pieces from the museum’s collection.
“We have to be very careful with what we collect,” Snyder said. “In the past, we have been very grateful for the donations we have received, but some of them fall outside our fundraising mission.”
Snyder uses the museum’s pottery collection as an example, one of his strengths. “With pottery not all pottery is created equal, so what we’re trying to do is create a more cultured collection,” she said, “so the pieces really speak of a lot of different traditions. , not just one of all. “
Quality is important, Snyder said, and if the museum has multiple pieces by the same artist, selling them and giving other museums or collectors a chance to get them benefits both parties. The money from the transfer, as the process is called, will be used to purchase the museum’s collection and to take care of the collection.
The digitization process is an important part of the American Alliance of Museums that ZMA is going through. A recent donation from the Straker Foundation has helped overcome another hurdle in the process. The foundation recently donated over $ 42,000 to improve the museum’s security system.
Synder said the museum is expected to reopen in the fall. The digitization process will not be complete by then, but the first part of the collection to be displayed online is expected to be available on the occasion of the museum’s 85th anniversary in October.
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