In August 2010, Reynolda House embarked on a three-year, comprehensive electronic cataloging project of the Museum's collections. The first year of the project was focused on cataloging objects in the fine art collection, while the second and third years expanded their concentration to incorporate objects from the historic house. This included photographing each object, organizing existing documentation, and creating original research. We purchased a new database, The Museum System (TMS), in which we are able to enter all of this information.
Listed below are updates on the progress of the project provided by Kim Sissons, Cataloging Assistant. For questions about the project,
May 14, 2013
I've been playing a sort of 'eye spy' game in identifying historic house objects in some of the early photographs from the Museum's Archives. Once I've identified an object in a photograph, I take note so that the two things can be linked together in the database (and on the website). The photograph and the object depicted in it are considered related works.
May 1, 2013
We have managed to squeeze one more photography shoot into this project. David Ramsey, our contract Professional Photographer, was with us for two days this week to capture 21 more Historic House items.
David set up his equipment in the auditorium while we brought him a variety of medium sized historic house objects - there were tables, floor lamps, and plant stands in the mix. Even though this was David's last visit for the ECP, there are still plenty more objects for him to photograph--he's sure to be back at Reynolda!
April 26, 2013
There has been quite a bit of time spent sitting at a computer as of late. I have been working hard to prepare digital templates on historic house objectswhich Chloe has been entering into TMS. As we near the end of the project, it is all about teamwork to accomplish our goals.
April 16, 2013
I experienced an 'ah ha!' moment recently while combing through the E. F. Caldwell & Co. online archives hosted by the Smithsonian Institution Library.
When our Decorative Arts contract curator had looked at a pair of blue vases (1922.2.57-58) on the library mantel last February she decided to attributed them to E. F. Caldwell, based on their fine craftsmanship and because they were enameled metal. They had a 'Caldwell feel' about them.
Then a couple months later while looking up other objects in the E. F. Caldwell & Co. archive, I stumbled across an image of the vases. It turns out they ARE made by E. F. Caldwell, and that their product number is A-49106 [search A049106 at the archive site to see for yourself].
It is satisfying that our curatorial attribution was correct. Lack of a mark doesn't always prevent an object from being properly identified.
April 3, 2013
It would seem obvious that a prominent family such as the Reynolds would have various types of art and paintings hanging on their walls, but it is only recently during our current project that we are making connections to which pieces we still have that the family purchased.
By conducting provenance research we have been able to match up certain prints and paintings in our collection to items on a 1922 inventory of the house as well as through early historic photographs.
March 21, 2013
At the beginning of this week, Chloe Richardson and I had the opportunity to spend two days with our contract Decorative Arts Curator, Ellen Denker. We spent our time looking at over 60 objects from the balcony and a couple porches.
It was fun trying to imagine and piece together the porches as they might have been (and what was off-view of the camera in photographs). The Lake Porch was especially interesting because of its various photographs which depict subsequent re-decorations even in its early years.
As always, we can't wait to see what Ellen's further research will bring to light about objects we see every day.
March 15, 2013
Aside from working on our Fine Art and Historic House collection objects, Elizabeth Williams-Clymer and I have been busy developing a place for the Museum's Archives in TMS. We have been hashing out the details and particulars for adding Archives' records as object records with associated media. As a test-run our archivist Todd Crumley gave us the information for a couple historic photographs that we then entered into TMSthey look pretty great and we feel like we captured all of the information in the proper places. We are feeling good about our progress this far. Our next step will be adding a record of some plans to see if we need to tweak anything with a different type of material.
February 15, 2013
We have a number of artworks in the collections by unknown artists. Not all of these works are unknown because they are unsigned, since sometimes signatures can be illegible. Illegibility can take on different forms, where a signature is too degraded or too stylized. Old varnish, cracquelure, or smeared watercolor can damage and distort signatures. It is so tantalizing when you feel like you can almost read it. This is made easier when the viewer has a clue as to the artist, as they can compare a damaged signature to a complete one. Monograms and other stylized signatures are great when the viewer knows the artist, but they make researching a bit more difficult (though not impossible).
We continue to research and document, and hope that even if we don't figure it out right now, someone in the future will have an 'ah-ha' moment when they recognize one of our signatures.
February 1, 2013
Welcome back, everyone!
We are once again open to the public Tues-Sat 9:30am-4:30pm and Sun 1:30-4:30pm. Come and see us.
Janurary 25, 2013
The Museum has been closed for the past two weeks and during that time we have been lucky enough to be graced with the company of the charismatic and talented photographer David Ramsey. We once again took over the Reception Hall and made it into a studio for a photo shoot (while the rest of the Collections staff switches exhibitions in the gallery).
We were able to photograph over 40 Historic House objects. Chloe and I would clean, prep, and carry them over, while David would photograph different views and details. We had two different kinds of background set-ups (for small and large objects), as well as, photographing some objects in situ (like the Aeolian organ console--much too large to move!). Our selections ran the gamut. I know that I am excited to see the fruits of our combined labors when David Ramsey finishes his editing.
January 10, 2013
There are lots of different sorts of things that can arise during this project. When working through the object files for our Chuck Close, Keith series it became apparent that we didn't have explicit instruction regarding guidelines for displaying the works. We had institutional word of mouth that it was known that the six drawings needed to 'always be displayed together', but there was no documentation to corroborate this. We felt that it was important to get clarification, so I contacted Chuck Close Studios. They were able to ask the artist and send us a response:
"Chuck said that he prefers that the drawings be displayed together. However, should an occasion arise where a curator wishes to display one of the drawings alone, he would be okay with that."
Now we have solid documentation regarding the display of the series of six drawings for future reference.
December 21, 2012
Season's Greetings from Reynolda House!
It has been a busy December chugging along on the project. I am looking forward to spending some time with family next week, but don't worry because the Museum will still be open (except for Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Dayso staff can be with their families) for you to come down and visit. Check out the holiday decorations around the house and the Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey exhibition before they come down.
December 7, 2012
Monday had us up in the air, working with our E. F. Caldwell & Co chandelier in the Reception Hall. Chloe and I brought in a tall ladder and lift (with the help of our Preparator, Che) in order to clean and condition report it.
While I didn't mind traveling up to the main part of the chandelier with my dust brush and flashlight inspecting for any issuesI admit I was too scared to take the lift all the way to the ceiling. Luckily, Che was brave enough to go to the top to help us measure the entire length (nearly 13 feet). We also made sure to get photographs and affix a label to one of the arms.
November 26, 2012
After a lovely long holiday weekend it is right back to the thick of it condition reporting objects on the porches. I do want to take a moment to express how thankful we are to all of the generous donors and contributors to this project, for making our work possible.
November 9, 2012
One of the main types of 'permanent' marking we use at Reynolda House is paper labeling. Paper labels are affixed with what we in the collections world like to call a 'B-72 sandwich', or the barrier method. Objects' numbers are printed with a laser jet printer onto paper (small!). Each number is cut out. On the object we put down a layer of Acryloid B-72, and thenwhile the B-72 is still tackywe place the paper label onto it. Lastly, we coat the paper label with another layer of B-72.
Our Acryloid B-72 in Acetone comes in a handy nail polish style bottle for easy application. We also use tweezers to place the label onto the surface of the objectmy personal favorite for the job being reverse tip tweezers (the type that open when squeezed) because they do the label holding for you. We do our best to choose an area that is not too noticeable so that the label is not visually distracting. We don't want them to be so hidden though that we can't quickly find the number, so it is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of an object's number on it in the Museum if you look carefully (but I don't recommend crawling on the floor to peek underneath chairs since Security might get suspicious).
Here is a some more information about this type of labeling from the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (2007).
October 30, 2012
It is important that the number associated with an object be marked on the object. Labeling and marking allows for objects to be connected to their documentation. There are two primary types of labeling in museums: temporary and permanent. Temporary marking happens when an object first comes into a museum. At Reynolda House we would associate the object with a Temporary Deposit number and have that number on a temporary tag. Once the Museum decided to accession the object it would be given a more permanent number.
There are a number of ways in which to label objects. How you label an object depends largely on the material that the object is made of. Regardless of method, it is important that labeling be reversiblethis doesn't mean that anyone could just accidentally erase the number, but instead that with proper solvents and/or materials a professional could safely remove the number without damage to the object.
A great webpage about collections labeling by material is Ellen Carrlee Conservation.
October 12, 2012
The majority of lighting fixtures in the House were created by Edward F. Caldwell & Co., New York. This is true of the eight wall brackets, four table lamps, and chandelier in the Reception Hall. While gathering information for each piece, I've come across the 1916 E. F. Caldwell & Co. estimates provided to Reynolda and Charles Keen. These estimates include the design number for each fixture and a description. The six torch standard wall brackets in the Reception Hall are described in an August 4, 1916 estimate as such:
A 26653, 1 light electric torch brackets, each light to be equivalent to three ordinary lights, antique gilt and subdued polychrome, with hand painted shades.
In addition, I've been able to use a website (Shedding Light on New York: Edward F. Caldwell & Co.) set-up by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library about its Edward F. Caldwell & Co. Archive. The website allows you to search through images. If you search 'A026653' you can see the torch standard wall bracket that we have in our collection. This is the type of interesting information that I am adding to our files.
September 27, 2012
Chloe and I have been spending our Mondays (closed to the publicso as to not be underfoot) processing objects in the Lake Breakfast Porch and on the Balcony. Just like with Katharine and RJ's studieswe are photographing, measuring, condition reporting, and labeling each object.
This batch of objects has lots of interesting things. The sconces along the walls compliment the chandelier with the same floral and fruit elements. The benches on the balcony each have a different scene in the center of their tapestry upholsterywhich I hadn't picked up on before (it is funny how much you notice by looking more closely). Additionally, the large hanging tapestries on the balcony bring a new element to our labeling, in which I carefully sew labels onto the backing muslin.
September 14, 2012
I've been spending a good deal of time working with historic house objects lately. A number of the pieces make me think of our William Merritt Chase painting, In the Studio, circa 1884. The new curatorial write-up describes Chase's collecting habits:
The inner studio was indeed much larger than the main studio, Chase's workspace. In this depiction, a young woman is seated, holding a Japanese woodblock print and surrounded by Chase's collection of "bric-a-brac," a varied assortment of objects from around the world. Chase was an inveterate collector, indifferent to cost in the pursuit of acquisition, and he bought many of his things on his frequent travels to Europe that he then sent back to New York. As evidence of his active and varied collection practices, when Chase had to sell the contents of his studio at an auction in 1896, the items were sorted into twenty-five categories.
August 17, 2012
Getting a glimpse at an artist's visual inspiration is a real treat. This happened when working through the file for Lyonel Feininger's Church of Heiligenhafen, 1922. Gerd Bruhn sent Reynolda House some images of Heiligenhafen, Germany in 1997 (with the church in the background). One can draw the visual connections between the actual place and the painting. The new curatorial description talks about the location:
Heiligenhafen is a fishing village in northernmost Germany on the Baltic Sea. Beginning in 1924, Feininger spent his summers nearby in Deep and was inspired by the region's simple old buildings, vistas of the sea, and northern light. These he distilled into serene and lyrical images that reveal his debt to Cubism and yearning for an emotional response to nature.
August 1, 2012
Today marks the first day of the Electronic Cataloging Project's Year Three. We had a productive Year Two, with the entry of 138 content-rich object records (and their 1,756 related media and constituent records) into TMS. This batch included the beginning of our Historic House object entriesthanks to new research provided by our contracted Decorative Arts Curator.
As we embark on the final year of our project, we have great plans and goals. By the end of Year Three we will wrap up database entries for the Fine Art collection as well as the Historic House collection objects that are on view on the first floor of the Museum. The momentum isn't stoppingthere is plenty to do!
July 18, 2012
We are busy finishing up our Year Two business, much of which includes getting the majority of the Fine Art Collection into TMS. The new robust records are a delight to read. While we work away, I thought everyone would enjoy an excerpt from the new description for John Singleton Copley's portrait John Spooner, 1763:
It is Spooner's face, however, that arrests the viewer's attention. He regards us with the hint of a knowing smile and a barely detectable gleam in his eye. Copley makes no attempt to camouflage flaws, such as the slight indentation on the sitter's right cheek. Indeed, it was this faithful attention to detail that made Copley so popular with the pragmatic colonists, who disdained flattery. A shadow of stubble is evident on Spooner's face; it is almost as if Copley is suggesting that the successful merchant is so diligent in his attention to his business that he simply has not had time to shave.
June 18, 2012
One of the great features of TMS is the ability to deliver data on a specific object (or group of objects) with a report. When someone asks for details on a work in our collection we have the ability to choose a report that selects the desired fields of information to display. Then that report can be saved digitally or printed into a hardcopy.
One such example was a student at NCSU who requested information on William Harnett's Job Lot Cheap, 1878. We were able to quickly provide him with information from a summary record run from TMS.
June 8, 2012
When we acquired our Mary Cassatt, Madame Gaillard and Her Daughter Marie-Thérèse, 1897 it had a different title. Research in the 1990s revealed that the old title (Madame Meerson and Her Daughter) was based on the misidentification of the sitters. The new curatorial description describes the metamorphosis of the title. Here's an excerpt:
It is believed that mistake about the sitters' identity happened in this way: In 1919, Cassatt's Paris art dealer Joseph Durand-Ruel acquired this pastel (presumably from the Gaillards themselves) and wrote to the artist to request identification of the sitters. Cassatt identified them as Mme. Gaillard and her daughter. In 1920, Durand-Ruel sold the piece to a Madame Meerson under the title Mere et Jeune Fille (Mother and Young Girl). When it was sold in 1949 to a Morris Saffron, he mistakenly assumed that the previous owner of the painting, Madame Meerson, was the mother depicted. It was at this point that the erroneous title became affixed. The work was officially retitled in 1997.
May 25, 2012
During the first part of this week we were able to, once again, work with Ellen Denker, our contracted Decorative Arts Curator. She was able to look at over 60 objects in Katharine's Study, RJ's Study, and the East Hall. These are the rooms Chloe and I just finished processing, so this visit with Ellen was even more interesting to us because of our recent acquaintance with the objects. (We especially enjoyed discovering faces on the chandelier above Katharine's desk!) It was great to be able to ask a professional the questions we had been pondering about particular objects.
Ellen also gave a brief presentation to Museum staff outlining her findings and research so far. It was helpful for the staff to hear not only broadly where we're at in the project but also for Ellen to narrow in on interesting pieces of information about specific objects in our collection. We are already looking forward to reading the interesting findings that she will be providing on the objects she reviewed this week.
May 10, 2012
Chloe and I wrapped up our documentation project in RJ's Study this week. The main event occurred on Monday, while we were closed to the public. In order to fully document the room sized Sarouk rug we moved all objects off the rug and out of the room, including RJ's desk. This required that all hands be on deck from the Collections Management department.
The desk is heavy with multiple moving parts and compartments (for a typewriter and such). In order to reduce the amount of stress on it during transport our Preparator, Che, devised a system that enabled us to move the object safely. As a team we carefully lifted one side at a time onto wood supports (only a small distance). The supports were then secured together to make a solid platform. We then lifted the platform onto dollies and were able to roll the desk out of the room.
Once we had finished documenting the rug (and adjusting its placement too!), we rolled the desk back into place and reversed the platform assembly process.
April 23, 2012
Previous to this project, if someone wanted to learn about a work in our collection they needed to look in many different places. First stop would be the Object filewith information about acquisition into the collection and other basics. Additionally there are Condition/Conservation files, Exhibition files, Outgoing Loan files, Vertical files (in the library), as well as, separate locations for appraisals and provenance research. Now with our new database, all the different types of information (with media!) are captured in one location.
April 4, 2012
This week Chloe and I began to process objects in Katharine Reynolds' Study. We are affixing unique museum numbers, recording accurate measurements, and performing condition reports for each object. Additionally we are photographing them from all sides, as well as, capturing any important details.
Behind the scenes, we are creating paper files with all of this information as well as any important documents that relate to the object. Once we are finished in Katharine's Study we will continue on into RJ's Study so if you come to visit you just may catch a glimpse of us behind the stanchions with clipboards, measuring tapes, and cameras.
March 16, 2012
It was fun to work on the provenance for our Jeremiah Theus, Mrs. Thomas Lynch, 1755. The painting had been kept in the family until the late 1960s when Barbara Millhouse purchased it from M. Knoedler & Co. Then in 1972, she donated the work to the Museum. I spent some time sorting through the different generations of family members that passed down the painting for the provenance recordlooking up life dates whenever possible. I had to have a whole Word document dedicated to untangling the family members, but it was extremely satisfying when it was done.
From 1755 to 1968
Mr. Thomas Lynch, Sr. (1726-1776), South Carolina, painted by the artist for his wife (Elizabeth Allton, died c. 1755) in 1755; Mrs. John (Sabina Lynch) Bowman (1747-1812), by inheritance from father Thomas Lynch, Sr.; John Bowman Lynch (1778-1875, changed name from John Lynch Bowman), South Carolina and Tennessee, by gift from mother Sabina Bowman; Mrs. Paul (Sabina Lynch) Dismukes (1812-1844), by gift of father John Bowman Lynch; Mrs. John (Sarah Dismukes) McCrady (born c. 1840), by gift of mother Sabina Dismukes; Reverend Edward McCrady (born c.1868), by gift of mother Sarah McCrady; Edward McCrady (born c.1907), by gift of father Rev. Edward McCrady.
March 2, 2012
Earlier this week Ellen Denker, our lovely Decorative Arts Contract Curator, bid us a visit. This trip she spent time looking at objects currently and historically on view in both the Dining Room and Library. This included everything from sconces and girandoles to commodes and footstools. Chloe and I set up a workstation with Ellen on the Lake Porch. We transported easily movable objects to us, but for larger items we went to them. Ellen looked at about 70 objects from the two rooms.
It is always a delight to find out new information about items in the Historic House.
February 16, 2012
Our work Map Projections: The Cube, 1986 by Agnes Denes was created using special techniques. It is a lithograph that has an added touch. The work was hand dusted with metallics according to a process invented by the artist in 1974.
The new curatorial description describes the effect of the metallics:
The dusting of metallic inks on a dark background of colored mulberry paper is not only beautiful but also appropriate for this re-conceptualization of earth's spatial dimensions, in this instance from sphere to cube. Denes may be alluding to photographic images of earth taken from space in which the developed continents are lit up by their megacities. It is perhaps a sobering reminder that what seems beautiful and magical is a result of light pollution and excessive population.
January 27, 2012
Greetings from the Reception Hall! Our professional photographer, David Ramsey, has been at Reynolda House since January 17th working on the third major photo shoot of the ECP. Last week we worked with Fine Art in the Auditorium (getting 43 works done), but this week we switched our focus to large Historic House objects. We took advantage of Reynolda's closure to the public and commandeering the Reception Hall into a make-shift photography studio. We have been carefully moving heavy and cumbersome objectslike sofas and marble-top tablesonto white background paper to be photographed.
It is a slow process. In one week, we were able to photograph eighteen Historic House objects. Not only are the objects heavy but they also require special handling techniques. We have to follow standard object handling procedures and lift the furniture from only its strongest points. For instance, when we had to move a table we couldn't lift the table by the table top, but instead we had to get down and raise it by the two base legs. We've been hoisting objects onto dollies and carts whenever possible to help us.
All of this hard work is extremely gratifying thoughas we will have terrific professional images for our database and eventually our website.
January 13, 2012
You can walk through the same room over and over again and still notice new things. This was definitely true for Chloe and me earlier this week. We were working with some objects in the Library behind the stanchions when we realized that the floor lamp (1922.2.59) near the piano has a unicorn finial. We were surprised and delighted to find a bit of the magical hidden away in Reynolda House's Library.
If you find yourself in the Library make sure to look for the floor lamp with the red pleated shade with a small metal unicorn on top. There is always something new to discover.
January 4, 2012
Happy New Year Everyone! We are just about halfway through our 2nd year and have accomplished much. The holidays were a nice quiet break, but things are about to get very busy!
December 9, 2011
New media in artwork can really be a challenge for registrars. This is evident in the repair history of our Nam June Paik piece, Leonardo da Vinci
, 1991. Leonardo da Vinci
is a multimedia work that has six tvs and a Sony Watchman that project video made by the artistwhich was originally on laserdisc.
When the Museum was purchasing the work, it was believed that the technology would be much more resilient. According to a memo in the object file from April 1993: "[The gallery owner] described the piece as 'maintenance free and user friendly...the video disc itself should never wear out...a conservative estimate of the lifespan of the TVs would be a minimum of 10 years.'" Unfortunately by August 1994, the Museum began having problems with the televisions, laserdiscs, and laserdisc players (this can be seen from the size of the condition file).
Luckily for the Museum the artist was forward thinking in his use of new media and made allowances for changing technology. In the object file, we have a contract from the artist stating that we are allowed to make certain modifications to the work including replacing the television sets with newer model hardware and replacing the laser disc players with newer technology (which we haveDVDs). According to the contract Nam June Paik states that "these modifications do not change the authenticity of this work as an original by me."
At this point most of the hardware and software of the piece has been repaired or replacedwhich is not that surprising, since how many of you still watch movies on laserdisc? It is lucky for us that we can adapt with technologyin fact the next step will probably be moving from DVD to completely digital (mpeg) and perhaps have a computer screen .
November 23, 2011
Part of the challenge of verifying a work's information can be finding the artist's signaturewhich is often hidden in the image.
Chloe and I have had quite a time hunting down Thomas Cole's signatures in both his Voyage of Life: Childhood, 18541855 series print and Home in the Woods, 1847 painting. With some determination (and a flashlight!) we eventually found them concealed in the works. Of course once spotted, the signature is almost obvious. See if you can find it!
November 10, 2011
Joseph Stella's Tree, Cactus, Moon, circa 1928 object file included an article from Winston-Salem's The Sentinel newspaper on June 25, 1979--which Managing Curator Allison Slaby quotes in her new description of the work. Here is an excerpt:
Tree, Cactus, Moon was an early modernist addition to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art collection. In 1979, the painting was unveiled to the public in Reynolda's Reception Hall, where works by nineteenth-century American artists Albert Bierstadt and George Inness also hung. At the unveiling, Barbara Babcock Millhouse, Reynolda's founding director, remarked, "In recent years, Reynolda House has attempted to match its very fine collection of nineteenth-century works of art with equally fine works from the twentieth century." Like Georgia O'Keeffe's Pool in the Woods, Lake George, 1922, a later gift to the Museum from Barbara Millhouse, Stella's Tree, Cactus, Moon continues Reynolda House's interest in landscape painting, but reinterprets the landscape using decidedly modernist visual language.
October 24, 2011
This week we are happy to have our contracted Decorative Arts Curator Ellen Denker at Reynolda House for a second time. During this visit she is going to be focusing on looking at historic objects in the Reception Hall. This includes an array of object types from large to small and portable to stationary. Some pieces on the list are the chandelier, sofas, fireplace set, and smoking stands (just to name a few). Ellen's continued research on the furnishings owned by the Reynolds family will provide us with valuable information about our collection.
October 7, 2011
Today marks the opening of our Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition. In honor of that, I thought I'd share a fun tidbit regarding our own Robert Motherwell print, The Celtic Stone, 1970-1971.
According to Esther Sparks, Motherwell matched the color of the ink in The Celtic Stone to a glass of Cinzano vermouth from Tatyana and Maurice Grosman's kitchen (Universal Limited Art Editions: A History and Catalogue, The First Twenty-Five Years, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989). Tatyana Grosman was the founder of the publisher Universal Limited Art Editions.
September 23, 2011
Prints and engravings from the 19th century frequently have more than one artist associated with their creationbut typically only the painter of the original work gets the attribution. This is true of our four Thomas Cole (1801-1848) Voyage of Life, 1854-1856 prints. The four prints are engravings completed by artist James Smillie (1807-1885) after paintings by Thomas Cole. Smillie was a specialist for the American Art-Union in landscapes.
A great thing about TMS is that we are able to associate as many artists to a work as we need. We don't necessary have to choose onethough we do pick a primary for listsallowing us a more complete picture of the creation of each object.
September 6, 2011
At this point the majority of the full-time (and some part-time) staff of the Museum has received a TMS introduction and demonstration. Staff learned about our new collections management software either in small groups or during larger lunch-time presentations. Each group has been terrific--being engaged and asking questions. It has been great to be able to inform others about what we've been working on, as well as, to get them excited about information that will be available to them in the near future.
August 18, 2011
I've uncovered some more little gems of information while gathering information in letters between Reynolda House's Founding President Barbara B. Millhouse and artist Jacob Lawrence regarding his painting Builders No. 2 , 1968 which is in our collection. Barbara B. Millhouse asked Lawrence whether his "fascination with carpentry [had] anything to do with the Bible and Joseph's craft?" to which he responded in a November 16, 1986 letter:
"My fascination with tools is that I find them esthetically [sic] beautiful both to feel and to view. The hand tools especially, are like works of sculpture. To me, tools are a symbol of uplift."
July 29, 2011
Today marks the conclusion of Year One of our Electronic Cataloging Project. As you can see from all the entries below, it has been quite a year! As of today we have 72 content-rich object records (with 1,295 related media and constituent records linked) in TMS. Just last week Chloe Richardson, our new part-time project assistant, started working with us. We've got a good thing going as we head into Year Two.
July 13, 2011
Contract Curator Ellen Denker's visit has provided us with lots of new and exciting information about some of the objects in Reynolda's historic house collection. For instance, the pair of Chinese vases that sit on the mantel in the reception hall are not 19th century replicas--like they were so often thought of--but in fact much older.
According to Ellen Denker:
Fahua ware, the name given to this type of ceramic decoration, was an attempt to imitate the cloisonné in clay. Most examples of Fahua ware are assigned to the late 15th or 16th century, putting them in the period of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).
July 5, 2011
Great News! Both the National Endowment for the Arts
(NEA) and I will be staying with the project for Year Two. Reynolda House is ecstatic that NEA has graciously bestowed an even larger grant award for the second year of the project than the first. This money will allow for me to continue my full-time position, as well as, the hiring of a part-time staff member to help keep up our momentum.
June 20, 2011
Last week was busy for Elizabeth and me, as we had the pleasure of working with our professional photographer, David Ramsey, for another collections photo-shoot. This time we had three different set-ups in our make-shift photography studio in the auditoriumlarge 3D, small 3D, and 2D. Some of our art pieces required special mounts that were built by our Preparator, Che Machado, for photography.
Our Red Groom's work Gertrude
, 1975 needed to be removed from her Plexiglas case and have a vertical mount that allowed her to float, since she has no base. A similar type of mount was built for our Lloyd Toone Styling
, 1998. Two of our Alan Shields' works (Sun, Moon, Title Page
, 1971 and Rat
, 1974) are double sided and encased in Plexiglas, so Che created a mount that allowed them to hang vertically.
June 10, 2011
Lately there has been a spate of presentations about the project (for staff, National Advisory Council members, new Board members & contract curators). We've been busy updating everyone on the progress we've made so far, as well as, the work yet come. I've been giving mini-tours of TMS and showing how we are capturing all the different kinds of data. Everyone has been interested. They have been asking all kinds of questions--which we are happy to answer. We want everyone to know more about what we are doing.
May 20, 2011
In looking forward to Year Two of the project, we have begun research on historic house objects. It has been a pleasure working with our contract Decorative Arts curator, Ellen Denker, for the past week. Elizabeth and I have been removing objects from around the house and bringing them down to a storage room on the staff level for Ellen to look at and take notes. In the coming weeks she will be creating and submitting curatorial write-ups that we will enter into the database during Year Two.
This is the first of multiple sessions that involves researching our historic house collection. In just this one week we have learned so many interesting things about our objects. (More details to come in a future post.) We are already looking forward to our next session!
May 16, 2011
Along with creating records for objects in TMS, I'm also busy working on a Data Dictionary. This defines the basic organization of our database by giving for each field: a definition, what it consists of, and how the Museum uses it. It may seem trivial to explain something that might be obvious but creating this document ensures that information is put in the same places, the same way, no matter who is entering it. Here is an example of one of our entries (warning-technical jargon ahead!):
Attributes: free-text, long; alpha-numeric
Access: system admin; public (view only)
Description: Narrative text describing the object.
Example: This panoramic landscape was painted during Frederic Church's first trip to Ecuador in 1853.
Data-Entry Conventions: Expected. Available during new object creation and on object front card. If the description includes text in a non-Western European language, you can enter this text in the Unicode field. Western-style characters with diacriticals and other marks can be pasted into the regular free-text field.
April 29, 2011
While going through the various files related to Thomas Hart Benton
, I came across a treasure trove of handwritten correspondence from him. In a letter to Reynolda House's founding president Barbara B. Millhouse from October 20, 1971, Benton discussed his painting Bootleggers
, 1927 (1971.2.1):
"Bootleggers" or "Prohibition Days" (a later title) is my first entrance into painting "history, which was not history when it was painted but became history with its passage of time" I'm quoting herebut I don't remember who I'm quoting.
Anyhow the picture you have, represents my first shift into a muralistic style which aimed at "containing" the life of my time "The American Life"I should say. It is the predecessor of all the later muralistic paintings on American Life as we experience it.
April 15, 2011
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about taking registration photographs of works hanging in the Museum--this undertaking continued into fine art storage recently. Elizabeth Williams-Clymer and I were not there only to take photographs (of the frame and signature and additionally the reverse and any back labels or inscriptions), but also to update the dimensions of the works. We used a soft plastic tape measure while wearing Nitrile gloves to carefully measure the dimensions of the frame, canvas size, and visible image.
March 30, 2011
Our file on Thomas Eakins's portrait of A.W. Lee
, contains some interesting correspondence related to the sitter. The new curatorial description (written for this project) has transcribed some of those letters:
In a typewritten letter from Clearfield [Pennsylvania] dated January 29, 1905, A. W. Lee wrote to Eakins: "My dear Sir: I am sorry that I have been unable to give you a sitting. Am now going South and will return by your City in March, when I hope to be able to give you some time. Very sincerely yours, A. W. Lee" Apparently Lee was able to pose for Eakins but the end result would not satisfy the sitter. In a handwritten letter dated September 19, 1905 sent from Tyrone, Pennsylvania, Lee again wrote Eakins: "Dear Sir: You will receive the Painting back from Washington addressed Mary E. Lee, 1729 Mt. V. I may make a suggestion when I am down soon. While not accepted by me I send you a cheque for $200 anyway. In a general way my daughter liked it. Very truly yours, A. W. Lee."
March 18, 2011
Because much of my job involves me sitting at my desk going through files and working on my computer, I really look forward to tasks that get me up and moving around. Of course those assignments are even better if I get to spend time with the art firsthand.
Every couple of weeks I've been traipsing around the Museum (especially in the Historic House) to take registration photographs of works in our fine art collection. We typically have the professional photographer exclude the frame of a work, instead cropping only the image. This is why I'm taking registration photographs of the whole work with its frame, a detail of the frame, and a detail of the artist's signature. They will supplement our professional images (see Jan 21st entry)helping us to keep more thorough records.
March 5, 2011
I have recently been working on records of a couple of our portraits, namely Gilbert Stuart's painting of Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis (Sally Foster)
and Joseph Blackburn's painting of Elizabeth Browne Rogers
. In doing so, I have come across some entertaining tidbits related to their acquisitions.
Reynolda House purchased the Stuart portrait in early July 1967 from the Vose Galleries of Boston. Until that time the painting had been kept in the family of the sitter. Around the same time, the Blackburn portrait went up for sale. The Vose Galleries of Boston acted as an intermediary and represented Reynolda House at the auction. They purchased the work for the Museum (making a commission of course) and had it shipped down to Winston-Salem, NC.
In a letter regarding the Blackburn's Elizabeth Browne Rogers dated July 19th, 1967 to the Museum's Founding Director Barbara Millhouse, Robert C. Vose Jr. of the Vose Galleries added this post-script about the Stuart painting:
"P.S. A Philadelphia lady just phoned broken hearted that Mrs. Otis was sold. Asked buyer and price, on both counts I took the fifth amendment."
February 14, 2011
I'm working with our Managing Curator, Allison Slaby, and Director of Education, Kathleen Hutton, to come up with a list of attributes for each work. Attributes are basically subject terms or keywordsrelating to description, identification, and interpretation. These terms will be used to search for works. Many of the attributes are handily cross-referenced, so that if one person searches for the term "looking-glass" while another person searches "mirror" the results would be the same because they are equivalent terms indexed in the database. We use a couple different sources for this, the most important being the Getty's Art and Architecture Thesaurus
February 4, 2011
Various sources have graciously provided funding for this project. Funders for Year One include: the National Endowment for the Arts
(NEA); the John W. and Anna H. Hanes Foundation
; the Cannon Foundation
; the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County
; and Kathy Mountcastle & Mark Koster. On behalf of the Museum staff and board, I want to thank them for their generous assistancethis project would not be possible without the aid of Reynolda House supporters like them. As the project continues, we hope interest and future donations will make Years Two and Three possible.
January 21, 2011
One of the goals of this project includes creating professional images of our collection objects. Today was the last day of a successful shoot with photographer David Ramsey. Elizabeth Williams-Clymer (Assistant Registrar & ECP Project Manager) and I have been camped out in the auditorium for the past two weeks--where we put together our own photo studio. David created sets for both two-dimensional works (prints & paintings) and three-dimensional objects (sculpture & some decorative arts).
We were able to shoot over 115
objects (many including details)! It was tiring to move around so many works, but extremely satisfying. We are thrilled with the results. These new images will be a great addition to, not only our documentation, but our future website and publications.
January 7, 2011
When using a new database there is often a certain amount of trial and error that goes into making the system work for you and your museum. It is a good idea ease into adding records initially with a cataloging project like this. Sometimes you need to work with something for a while and get a feel for the big picture before you can become more certain on how to use all the fields. This was true when I started working with the media records (image, video, audio, & document files) that are associated with object records. We constructed a plan to execute, but after entering about 20 records it became apparent that we needed to revamp our standards to better capture information in the fields. Shifting around data for only a couple dozen records wasn't too painful, but it goes to show that if you start slowly in the beginning, you won't end up having to correct as many things.
January 4, 2011
Happy New Year, everyone! After a lovely winter break for the holidays, it's time for us to get back to work at Reynolda House--even though we are closed to the public in January. The collections staff will use this time to get some special projects done (keep an eye out here for an update on one related to this cataloging project). Best wishes to all!
December 17, 2010
This project has allowed us to realize that Reynolda House has quite a few works that retain their artist-created or artist-designed frames. This bit of information frequently can be overlooked when everyone is focused on the main image. Research by me and other staff members have made us more aware of these original frames--and therefore, we realize how important it is to get photographs of them specifically. The frame of Childe Hassam's Giant Magnolias
, 1904 was designed by the artist, and you can see a detail of it here.
December 8, 2010
Maynard Weber, the son of artist Max Weber (1881-1961), visited Reynolda House with his wife Dorothy in 1986. They happened upon the Museum by chance (and a recommendation from Old Salem staff to visit Reynolda Village for lunch). Their visit facilitated the decision to donate one of Max Weber's paintings, The Dancers
, 1948. In the object file is an interview transcript with the son from May 24, 1988. Here is an excerpt of Maynard talking about Reynolda House:
"Among the art were many works by my father's contemporaries. The furnishings of the house were inviting...it has a relaxed atmosphere, and we felt welcome--as if we were visiting someone's home--Reynolda House is a home. It is not sterile and not merely a showcase; the building does not have the awesome size and emptiness of many of our museums today. It has instead a softness and a warmth--homelike....I wanted one of his [Max Weber] paintings to be here. It is a place he would have loved."
November 18, 2010
It has been really exciting to get to know more information about Grant Wood's Spring Turning
, 1936. The history of the painting is rich. While our files on Spring Turning
are already robust, I dug deeper into its history while researching the painting's provenance. I had to put together pieces of information into a coherent timeline of provenance. I used a myriad of clues and sources to reveal past ownership. Sometimes I found names from old back labels, while email correspondence with art dealer James Maroney Jr. provided even more leads. It's amazing how helpful other museums and galleries will be in divulging information about a work of art if you take the time to contact them. Even when an institution failed to come up with more information for me, they were kind in responding to my inquiries. After much research, I now believe we have a good idea what the chain of ownership was for Spring Turning
from its execution until it was donated to Reynolda House.
The label pictured is great, because it is an exhibition label from 1936, right after the painting was completed--while Wood still owned it.
November 5, 2010
Driving down Reynolda Road this time of year, I can't help but think of Jasper Francis Cropsey's Mounts Adam and Eve
, 1872, because I recently read its new curatorial description that was generated for TMS. An excerpt:
Initially, English critics challenged the authenticity of Cropsey's palette, calling the brilliant autumn foliage gaudy and unrealistic. However, after Cropsey displayed fall leaves from the Hudson River Valley alongside his paintings in order to prove their authenticity, the European critics were swayed.
October 25, 2010
TMS is designed to be institution-specific, therefore, there are many fields that do not come pre-populated. At this point we still need to set up many 'behind-the-scenes' aspects of the database. The project team members need to create the currently unpopulated fields as appropriate. We are undergoing a series of meetings to determine what our TMS drop-down fields should be. With all of the many features in TMS, this is no small feat! We are refining terms based on Collections needs, and then we are consulting with our Managing Curator and Director of Education for further input.
October 13, 2010
For the next three days, ten staff members will be participating in on-site TMS training. Annie Van Assche, a consultant with Gallery Systems, will be here to instruct us on the ins and outs of this great program!
August 24, 2010
Today we installed our new Gallery Systems' TMS database. The National Endowment for the Arts' Access to Artistic Excellence grant allowed for the purchase of this collections management software. TMS is a program capable of capturing information about provenance, publications, exhibitions, images, etc. Initially this upgrade from our previous database will allow Museum staff greater access to comprehensive data on collection objects.
August 16, 2010
I have been sorting through physical records--like object files, condition reports, loan files--for museum objects and distilling pertinent information to be captured in the new database. I make a point to research the history of the object beyond just its time at Reynolda House by looking up provenance and exhibition information. I also glean data from the existing database that needs to be transferred over. Then I create templates of composite information, so it will be easier to enter into the database. The project is starting with the fine arts works, but then will continue with all the objects from the historic house.
August 2, 2010
Today is Kim's first day at Reynolda! We're excited to begin the Collections Cataloging Project.
July 30, 2010
Kim is originally from Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with B.A. degrees in Art History and Classical Archaeology. She received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Kim has multiple year experience as an image cataloger at University of Michigan's Art History slide library. More recently Kim has been working part-time as a collections contractor at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, as well as at the National Gallery of Art as a library technician in Image Collections.
July 29, 2010
Reynolda House is pleased to announce that we have hired Kim Sissons as cataloging project intern. This position is funded through a generous grant from the Cannon Foundation and will last for a period of one year.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. It is additionally supported by a grant from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County with funding from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that great nation deserves great art.