Thoughts on Museum Success IV: Ten Measures of the Ackland’s Success

Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 11 December 2014, this is the fourth in a series of ruminations on how museums measure success.

15101465249_fdeed13630_o_cropped2Dear Members,

By the numbers… As promised in the last Member E-News, this installment of my communications about measuring museum success focuses on statistics. I’ve selected a range of metrics, each with its own strong signal about how well the Ackland is doing. I’ve abstained from any commentary (every statistic can be qualified and questioned in some way!), preferring to let these figures send a straightforward, cumulative message.

At the moment, of course, we at the Ackland are especially aware of statistics about our Annual Fund and Membership renewal, and I want to take the opportunity to warmly thank those who have already made commitments and to urge generosity for those still considering! If you have not yet made your end-of-year gift, please do so now. Your support is essential in underpinning all of our successes.

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Glimpse into the Collection: Old Well in the Spring? (We say, “Yes!”)

Old Well

Edward Carrick, British, 1905-1998: “Christmas Greeting Card,” 1930; wood engraving. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2389.

Diane Davis is the project photographer for the Ackland Art Museum’s IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Since 2010, she has been producing master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years, she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

As each of us on the digitization team has discovered this print, we’ve imagined it was made in Chapel Hill and depicts the Old Well on UNC campus in the spring.

It seems equally fitting for Easter, with the little bunny in silhouette in the foreground, doesn’t it?  It took me a number of viewings to even notice that there is a second bunny in the middle of the “valley”. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the viewers eye is compelled to travel in the circular spiral of this composition…full of new growth bursting from the grass to the tree tops. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “A Hint of Spring”

Dana Brand is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She’s a self-described “Army brat” who landed longest in Winston-Salem, NC, before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill for both her Bachelor’s (English and Media Studies) and Master’s (Information Science) degrees. Dana first got into digitization, and metadata in particular, as an intern at the Digital Production Center in Wilson Library while in graduate school. 

This small series of prints just lifts my spirits and I wanted to share!

Bleriot

Ghislain Bleriot, French, born 1951: “Herbal: Impatiens” (“Herbier: Impatientes”), n.d.; drypoint and sulfur tint, printed in color. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Joseph F. McCrindle Collection, 2010.3.50.

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Glimpse into the Collection: “Tea Pots”

Abigail Wickes is a digital image technician at the Ackland Art Museum, and is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She became interested in digital image cataloging during an internship at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center while she was working towards her Master’s in Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill (2012).

tea pot #1

Unidentified Artist, Chinese: Teapot with Lid, early 18th century, porcelain, Transferred from Louis Round Wilson Library, Willie P. Mangum Collection, 84.19.7ab.

Most of the art in the Ackland Art Museum’s collection of over 17,000 pieces is two dimensional, but there are also hundreds of three dimensional objects, like sculptures and pottery. Adding 3D objects to a museum database is a bit more complex, since there are more surfaces to photograph; there might be images on multiple sides (e.g. the front, back, top, and bottom views) of many 3D objects.  Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “Creatures of Poictesme”

Abigail Wickes is a digital image technician at the Ackland Art Museum, and is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She became interested in digital image cataloging during an internship at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center while she was working towards her Master’s in Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill (2012).

Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s

Frank Cheyne Papé, British, 1878-1972: Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s, color line block.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2254

I found this beautiful map in my queue a few weeks ago, and I love all of the fantastic creatures it depicts. The Wikipedia page for Poictesme describes it as “a fictional country or province…roughly in the south of France” in which many of the fantasy works of James Branch Cabell take place. I’ve never read any Cabell, but apparently his work in fantasy fiction was a tremendous influence on many authors I love, including Neil Gaiman. Wherever Poictesme may be, it evidently has oceans with mermaids and sea serpents and forests with unicorns and hags. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “In the Fields”

Diane Davis is project photographer for the IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Beginning in 2010, she produces master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections.  Previously, Diane was a professional photographer in Charlotte, NC who served on boards at The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography & Film, Women in Communications-NC Chapter, and NC Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years,  she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

Since I’ve been on the Ackland’s digitization project the longest of our team of three, I’d like to kick off with an image that inspired me to start putting images into my “favorites” folder.  It was on November 24, 2010, and I had been photographing works on paper at the Ackland for less than a month. I came across a print by Wharton Esherick entitled Harvesting. I remember thinking, “This print is too fabulous not to save somewhere! How will I ever remember it after five months, a year, or two years of viewing such quantities of artwork?”

Esherick_Harvesting_whole_with_signature

Wharton Esherick, American, 1887-1970: “Harvesting,” 1927; wood engraving.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.1669.

And so it began. Esherick’s print started my “In the Fields” folder. That phase of the project included a lot of artworks that depicted agrarian activities — different cultures, different mediums, and different views of what it meant to the artists to reflect on their surroundings. But this one — how spectacular is this!?!

Note the writing below the image (click it to enlarge). The collector, Burton Emmett, often made notations about his purchases directly on the pieces themselves. This one indicates that he bought the print from the Weyhe Gallery in New York for $10 in 1929. The piece was part of the “50 Prints of the Year” exhibit sponsored by the American Art Dealers Association.

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NEW! Sneak Peek: Glimpses into the Ackland’s Collections

Those of us working on digitally archiving the Ackland’s collections have wanted to share our progress for some time. We are in our last phases of production, and we have now:

• Produced over 12,000 master image files of artworks
• Joined those images with descriptive and technical information
• Loaded all completed records (approximately 6,000!) onto the Ackland’s website, for free and easy use by individuals worldwide!

Imagine looking through box after box and folder after folder of artwork every day for eight hours a day. It is both dazzling and tedious. You can’t perform these duties without having some images stick in your brain, so we will be contributing to the Ackland Art Museum blog on a regular basis to give you an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes.

DigiTeam_clrThere are three of us currently working under a grant contract to accomplish this project: Diane, a photographer who has been digitizing since Fall 2010, and Dana and Abby, two digital image technicians who joined the project in Fall 2013.

And we want to be clear: not one of us has ever had a formal Art History class. We are all simply art appreciators who will be sharing our favorites with you—and we definitely have some favorites! Each of us will be digging into our files to bring you glimpses of what we have the privilege of seeing every day.