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Digitizing our Collection

In 2011, the Museum received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Science to create comprehensive digital records of 800 American and European paintings. To date, just over 700 of these paintings now have new, high-resolution digital photographs. Many of these paintings had been off-view from scholars and the public for several decades, and had not been examined for condition issues of any kind. Additionally, all works photographed have had object and administrative metadata embedded in the image files and had object records updated for compliance with current institutional best practices. An ancillary benefit of handling and un-framing these works for photography has been the opportunity to update protective backings for the canvases and upgrade framing hardware, where needed. More than 100 works have been treated accordingly as a result of this opportunity.

In early 2013 the Museum made eMuseum, its public platform for collection images and information. (eMuseum is the online collection database publishing platform created by Gallery Systems, Inc.) Images generated through the digitization process are now being shared online through eMuseum, along with object information that has been reviewed and updated by Museum staff. The implementation of eMuseum as a collection tool has also enabled progress in sharing other areas of the collection as well, including ancient, Asian, Pre-Columbian art, and works on paper. Over 3,200 objects have been added and shared publicly through eMuseum, comprising nearly 10% of the Museum’s entire collection and include many of its most important works. More objects are added on a regular basis as photography is completed and database records are checked and approved. The eMuseum data represents the single largest publication of selections from the Museum’s collection in its history.

The Museum's academic partners at area institutions such as Worcester State University, Holy Cross and Clark University are using the increased representation of the Museum's collection as teaching and research tools for faculty and students. Within the Museum, the increased accessibility of information to curators, conservators, educators, and docents to view and learn about collection holdings not normally on view has significantly enhanced audience engagement efforts. Images from the database have become a standard element of the Museum’s affiliated classes and outreach presentations. This greater visibility has brought attention from the wider world as well. Research inquiries from such diverse institutions as Japan's National Museum of Western Art, the Society of Early Americanists, the Canadian Conservation Institute, as well as from history and humanities scholars from the University of Georgia and Vassar College, among others, have all resulted from searches through the Museum's digitized holdings. Moreover, the general public has responded with inquiries regarding the availability of reproductions and detailed information regarding the works discovered through the database.

Availability of high quality digital images has even provided a serendipitous boost to enhance the quality and appearance of the Museum’s branded web and print collateral, announcements, and invitations. Where once few images were available, there now exist an extensive catalogue of new high-resolution images readily accessible to the Museum’s graphic designers and webmasters for use in institutional branding.

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