Complementing and expanding the Davison Art Center's longstanding programs of education, exhibition, and publication, digital technologies enable us to leverage the pedagogical value of the DAC collection in new ways.
Strategically interwoven, these projects and programs include the adoption of a new collections management system into which the DAC has migrated such information, and which now supports public search on the web; the DAC Open Access Images policy, put into effect in 2012; and the DAC Digital Imaging Initiative, which transitioned in 2013 to rapid-capture photography of collection objects. As counterparts to the direct study of original objects, these projects expand the means by which the DAC collection supports its educational mission.
Digital Photography of Collection Objects
In the summer of 2013, the DAC Digital Imaging Initiative transitioned from large-format digital photography using a 4x5-inch camera (very high-resolution, but slow) to high-quality, rapid-capture photography of collection objects. That first summer of rapid capture produced images of more than 1,800 artworks, mostly French and Italian prints of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Nearly all of those images are now available as DAC Open Access Images via DAC Collection Search online.
We are now advancing this digitization work with a three-year Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). A press release explains more about that grant for digital imaging in the summers of 2015-2017. With a project team of six working intensively for six weeks in June and July 2015, our initial run of IMLS-funded imaging enabled us to make highly accurate images of more than 1,900 artworks, chiefly Dutch and German prints. In December 2015, more than 1,700 of those images went live in DAC Collection Search and as DAC Open Access Images (some images represent works under copyright, which prevents that). This nearly doubled the number of such images, to 3,800—and counting…. In summer 2016, we'll dive deeply into British prints and then move on to other areas of the collection, creating significantly more DAC Open Access Images. This digitization project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services via grant number MA-30-14-0334-14.
Zoomable images of Japanese woodcuts from the collection are featured in a learning object developed collaboratively at Wesleyan to help students, collectors, and researchers better understand Ukiyo-e Techniques.
Wesleyan's New Media Lab created a digital presentation of Max Klinger's Brahmsphantasie in conjunction with the Davison Art Center (the presentation requires Flash, and it will open in a new window or tab in your web browser).
Images produced by earlier phases of the DAC Digital Imaging Initiative have been used to create learning resources for pedagogical use.
Online Access to Collection Information
The DAC moved its behind-the-scenes collection management to a new system via a major data migration in 2009-2011.* That system offers a sustainable model for future development and support. Since 2012, it exports selected object data to DAC Collection Search online, which enables students, faculty, researchers, and the public to discover more easily what the collection holds. Launched as early as possible in its development, that search resource went live in August 2012 as a public alpha version and is now undergoing ongoing, iterative improvements. 3,800 object records there now have images, and additional images will appear as digital imaging of the collection proceeds (see above).
*From 1989 to 1999 the DAC collection catalog was maintained in HyperCard, an authoring application. In the late 1990s we developed an interim collections database management system in-house. From 2000 through 2010, it provided a reliable, secure, and flexible environment for standardizing and enhancing collections information. That system was accessible only at the DAC, where it supported staff, faculty, and student access for teaching, research, exhibitions, collections management, and other museum operations.