Tuesday, 15 July 2014

ADDRESSING ISSUES OF PUBLIC ACCESS: SHARING PRINT COLLECTIONS USING SOCIAL MEDIA

THESIS REFLECTION BY: KATHRYN METHOT

Social media has allowed museum professionals to establish and participate in a community of shared knowledge. As most of my research has been theory-based, I have been looking for individuals whose museum work relates to my thesis topic. Through Twitter, I have been able to seek out and connect with several individuals working with print collections. I have hoped to understand the practical implications for dealing with paper collections through conducting interviews with these professionals. I have focused on several institutions with large print collections, with either active or inactive departments. One of my most important questions is what they feel the purpose of their department is in the museum and what their present and future objectives are. Finding out about the practical initiatives of print departments has helped to widen my perspective for my thesis and to think about the future of objects in museums and access to the public. Fortunately, I have received very positive responses from individuals I have recently contacted for interviews.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Print Gallery
The Met’s Print and Drawing Gallery: Due to issues of preservation, most works are only on display for three months (source: http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/museum-departments/curatorial-departments/drawings-and-prints)
This week I will be travelling to New York and meeting with curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum. Later this summer I am hoping to interview Benjamin Levy, the curatorial assistant in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (PDP) at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). I connected with Benjamin on Twitter after I read an article about the PDP’s Tumblr account (link: http://blog.artbma.org/2014/07/posts-for-print-lovers) which presents images of prints in the museum’s collection. Each image is paired with an interesting caption about the work. The Tumblr page has helped to combat the issue of public access to printed images. Due to light-sensitivity, paper collections can only be on display for a limited period of time. Social media initiatives such as the PDP’s Tumblr account opens up a wider collection of works to the public and looks to ignite an interest in prints (it even includes a fantastic ‘ask me about art’ section). As digitally curated exhibitions become more popular, I was intrigued by what this could bring for the future of paper collections. Although the public would not be viewing the prints in their physical form, presenting the works online allows museums to display more of their collection and to reach a wider audience. This has given me a lot to think about regarding the future of print collections and how inaccessibility can be combated, while addressing an issue of preservation and digitizing fragile works of art. I look forward to speaking with Benjamin later this summer and will bring up this issue in my interviews in New York.

Any feedback or thoughts about this topic would be greatly appreciated!

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