This week’s post is written by guest blogger, Brittany Baksa, Collections Assistant at The Phillips Museum of Art and Museum Studies Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University.
Last week the museum received a gift of 43 gelatin silver photographic prints by the artist, Andreas Feininger that were previously housed at the Bonnie Benrubi gallery in New York. The gift was given to the museum by the Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger, late wife of the artist. Born in Paris, France, Feininger immigrated to New York in 1939 where he established his role as a freelance photographer. In 1943 he began working at LIFE magazine, continuing through 1962. The artist was famous for his photographs of Manhattan scenery in addition to natural objects. As an author, he is best known for the written work, The Complete Photographer.
Night View of Midtown Manhattan 1941 Andreas Feininger Copyright Gertrud E. Feininger
In keeping with the museum registration standards of properly documenting every object that enters the museum, I processed the 43 works accordingly. I accounted for all of the works by checking our list with that of the gallery’s. I then photographed and took precise measurements of each object for our records. The next step was to compose condition reports (a detailed statement of the condition of the object). In preparing the report, I used a magnifying glass and flashlight to look closely at each piece looking for conditions such as delamination, accretions, scratches or loss. After the completion of this process, the photographs were placed into proper storage containers and the information entered into our museum database.
These objects are currently placed in the museum under a temporary custody agreement as they await a decision by the museum board to be accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection. For an object to be accessioned, it must be approved by the board under the condition that it will be retained in the collection for the foreseeable future in accordance with the mission of the museum.
Our first post is by guest blogger, Brittany Baksa, Collections Assistant at The Phillips Museum of Art and Museum Studies Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University.
In Spring of 2009, contemporary artist, Bill Hutson donated close to 800 objects including personal art, ephemera, and works by other artists from his collection. Many of the works on paper came to the museum in cardboard portfolios stacked one on top of the other. This presents an issue in the safety of the artwork in preserving the long-term care for the object. My task as the collections assistant was to create a proper storage environment for these objects by following the proper museum standards in collections management policies.
According to Rebecca Buck in Museum Registration Methods 5th Ed 2010, each object entering the museum must be documented. Proper documentation includes photographing, measuring, composing precise condition reports and labeling. The collection should be stabilized for long-term preservation and housed in a proper storage environment that is regularly monitored (Buck 2010, p. 24).
I had the opportunity to work closely with a paper conservator in determining the best steps to take to complete the project. In order to begin the process of re-housing the works, it was managed in several stages. I first separated the works on paper from three-dimensional objects. The second stage was to sort the works by size and third by like media. The works on paper were placed in archival folders, with acid-free permabond paper interleaved between each piece. The folders were then placed into archival boxes that were numbered and given a location on a shelf in our storage area.
It took me a little over four months to complete the project as I came across some challenges along the way. I found in some instances I needed to photograph, measure and assign identification to works that were not properly documented. I learned for example, that friable material such as pastels and charcoals needed to be placed in a shallow box alone rather than interleaved with acid free paper like the other works on paper.
The organization of some 400 works on paper helped to bring this collection to stabilization ensuring that long-term preservation of these materials will be maintained. This is most important as to provide access to the collection while supporting the mission of the museum.