Associate Registrar, Database Administration and Exhibitions, The Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) is a premier destination for art appreciators, and is recognized internationally for its diverse, 95,000-object permanent collection. Crisscrossing time and continents, its holdings notably include over 1,000 works by French artist Henri Matisse, along with a distinguished African gallery, Antioch mosaics, European masterpieces, and American paintings, decorative art, and sculptures, to name only a few highlights.
Overseeing such a varied and expansive collection keeps its staff very busy. To learn about recent ventures at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Gallery Systems caught up with Caitlin Perry-Vogelhut, the Associate Registrar of Database Administration and Exhibitions. Caitlin shared some of the Museum and her team’s latest undertakings, from facing everyday challenges to tackling upcoming projects.
What is the biggest challenge your team faces on a daily basis?
The biggest challenge the Baltimore Museum of Art currently faces is balancing an ambitious, ever-growing exhibition schedule with more collections-based projects. Within our curatorial team, there are several newer members who have joined the BMA over the past two years, and we are realizing that we relied heavily on the contributions of previous long-term staff. We are also about to embark on an ambitious construction project and subsequent relocation of our entire Prints, Drawings, and Photographs department, which requires a complete inventory of our largest collection, spanning approximately 60,000 objects. This project will give us the opportunity to finally create baseline TMS records for that department, as they are the only department with outstanding works not currently recorded in TMS.
How do you see the use of technology evolving at your institution?
With more staff working remotely, our team at the Baltimore Museum of Art is quickly adapting more digital files to our collections management database. In terms of TMS, this transition means we have been working to attach more documents to the relevant modules and records, as well as working with other project management software to help streamline processes and digitize previously paper-based workflows.
What is the one change that you’ve made at your institution that has had the biggest impact?
To branch out beyond the Objects module in TMS, I have worked closely with other registrars to better track workflows in the Loans module, as well as implement the Shipping module for all incoming and outgoing objects, and to transfer shipments. Staff from three departments are now entering loan recommendations and requirements in the Loans module and using it as a workflow to track our loan requests. As the BMA faces more construction and re-organizing of vault spaces, shipping records have become critical in tracking what is moving where and when.
How do you think the role of museums will change in the future?
In the future, I think museums will need to be more transparent and virtual-based. It would be wonderful to see more virtual reality exhibitions where people from across the world could walk through an exhibition installed in a museum. I also believe that museums should share the information about their collections more openly online.
Do you have a favorite book, event, or training resource that has helped or motivated you in your career?
Mosaic Columns and Stained Glass by Tiffany in the American Wing. Image courtesy of The Baltimore Museum of Art.
The on-site training offered by Gallery Systems in New York has been so helpful. In interacting with people familiar with TMS from a technical standpoint, as well as other everyday users, I have been able to learn more about the ins and outs of TMS, while also gaining fresh ideas for how my users at the Museum could be working with our collections management system.
What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on and why?
I am excited to be part of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s updating of our online collections, created and managed with eMuseum. Working with other staff to add to and more thoroughly document our works in eMuseum will be a wonderful project, especially as more users switch to online content in today’s world.
If you had to choose a favorite item from your collection, what would it be and why?
It is so hard to pick just one. I am going to stretch the limit and pick the 2014 reinstallation of our Tiffany mosaic columns and stained glass in the American Wing. The lighting and the feeling created by the space is an experience that I always find calming and peaceful.