DAC Digital Initiatives

Complementing and expanding the Davison Art Collection's longstanding programs of education, exhibition, and publication, digital technologies enable us to leverage the pedagogical value of the 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 access via DAC Collection Search; the DAC Open Access Images policy, put into effect in 2012; and the DAC Digital Imaging Initiative, which now focuses on systematic, rapid-capture photography of collection objects. As an online counterpart to supporting the direct study of original objects, offering these digital resources expands the means by which the 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 online as DAC Open Access Images via Davison Art Collection Search.

We recently advanced 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 each June and July, our three summers of IMLS-funded imaging in those years enabled us to make highly accurate images of more than 4,700 works on paper, chiefly from our Dutch, German, British, and American print holdings. More than 3,000 of those images are now live in Davison Art Collection Search and as DAC Open Access Images (some images represent works under copyright, which prevents us from providing them as open access images).

That digitization project, made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services via grant number MA-30-14-0334-14, more than doubled the total number of DAC Open Access Images. Further Davison Art Collection digitization is now under way with the support of IMLS Museums for America grant MA-30-17-0400-17, which to date has enabled the imaging of holdings that include nearly all of the DAC's Japanese prints and early photographs, as well as many other works, bringing the total count of DAC Open Access Images to well over 6,000.

IMLS logo

For more about the technical standards and guidelines that form the foundation of the DAC’s digitization and other digital work, please see the DAC Digital Standards page.

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 Collection (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 Davison Art 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 2012 as a public alpha version and is now undergoing ongoing, iterative improvements. More than 6,000 object records there now have images, and additional images will appear as digital imaging of the collection proceeds.

*From 1989 to 1999 the Davison Art 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 data. 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.