As the Goodrich Intern at the Birmingham Museum of Art, I rotate every three months between the Registrar, Education, Development, and Curatorial Departments for a year. I am coming to a close at my time with the Registrars and will shortly move to Education. However, I am very pleased to announce that, in addition to my duties as the Goodrich Internship, I will continue to work part time as a Registrar’s Assistant on a project I begun as the Goodrich Intern.
Fundamentally, I am digitizing the exhibition archives, begun in 1951, for public access. On a more detailed level, I am going through each archived exhibition record, which could have anywhere from one to three hundred pieces of paper, to pull out important information. At the same time, I am writing the standards for the digitization of the records, so that any future work on the archives will remain consistent. I am trying to find the who-what-when-where-why’s for the digital database: object checklist, contracts, dates, brochures, catalogues, press releases. Often, I will only have a letter to prove that an exhibition happened. Sometimes a file will be super thick, but after reading every page, I find that the exhibition was canceled.
I’ve processed about 350 records spanning the years 1951 to 1965. The Birmingham Museum of Art managed to exhibit about three shows every three weeks when the Museum was initially housed in Birmingham’s City Hall. At this point in time, all correspondence was done via letter or telegram, so I can find the chain of logic through all the correspondence, usually after some note taking. My memory is also key – often the files are unorganized, or a piece of paper will be put in to the wrong iteration of an annual exhibition – and I have to recall which show the paper belongs too. Sometimes a file labeled as a single exhibit is actually two or three distinct exhibitions. Furthermore, if I make a change to the workflow standards, I have to update any previously-digitized files to be in line with the new standards.
The best part of my day is when I find installation photos – standards were simply different. When the BMA first exhibited its Kress Collection of European Art, the paintings were hung against green velvet. I can’t wait until the files are public access through the Museum’s website – everyone should see those green velvet walls.