Digital Collection Manager at the Munch Museum

Hilde Bøe is Digital Collection Manager at the Munch Museum, where she and the majority of museum staff, including curators, conservators, library and education staff, work within TMS daily to catalogue an immense and varied collection of Edvard Munch’s work and ephemera.

Located in Oslo, Norway, the museum houses a unique collection of approximately 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings and 18,000 prints, as well as a handful sculptures and some 200 photographs, all by Edvard Munch. In addition to the artistic works, the collection also contains an archive of roughly 30,000 manuscript pages of everything from literary journals, letters and drafts, to exhibition lists and notes, and pieces of the interior from Munch’s last home.

1. What is the biggest challenge your team faces on a daily basis?

We have huge ambitions for our exhibitions program, yet we are unfortunately short on time and people. From my perspective as database administrator, this hinders our TMS data the most. We are a relatively small institution, where curators are also expected to take on collection management tasks in TMS, but there is hardly ever time for it.

2. Technology continues to have a significant impact on museum management and the engagement of audiences. How do you see the use of technology in your institution evolving?

We are a little behind on new technology, at least in our exhibitions. We use audio guides and touch screens, but nothing else. Our audience meet human guides and interact with them in a fairly conventional way. We are making plans for more innovative strategies of audience engagement to be implemented when we move into our new museum in 2019.

3. What is the one change that you’ve made at your institution that has had the biggest impact?

So far it has been TMS! We are still working on data standards, work procedures and reports, as we continue to navigate our transition from several separate databases to a single repository in TMS. It’s so gratifying whenever a colleague experiences her first “Eureka!” moment after seeing how well it all fits together. I only wish we had more resources (time and people) to really cultivate our database content and take advantage of all the useful features in TMS.

4. If you were given $100,000 to spend on management of your collection or department, how would you use it?

I would use it to register and digitise our collection of documentary photographs. These are photos of Edvard Munch’s exhibitions, as well as from his life and his different homes. Taken by both amateurs and skilled photographers, these images are a treasure trove that remains practically unknown to our audience. It would be awesome to have them in TMS and eMuseum.

5. Do you have a favourite book, event or training resource that has helped or motivated you in your career?

Well, as I have two hats in my job, I’d say I have two. As TMS administrator, one of my favorite resources has been Jon Thristan, Project consultant at Gallery Systems—I’ve learned so much from him!
As editor of Edvard Munch’s Writings, cf. below, I would have to say that my favourite books are the two volumes of guidelines from The Text Encoding Initiative, “TEI P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange”. A bit geeky, I know!

Fips dog

‘Fips’. Photograph courtesy of the Munch Museum. Photograph by Edvard Munch

6. What is one of the most interesting projects or exhibitions organized by your institution and why?

I would have to take the opportunity to highlight the project “Edvard Munch’s Writings. A Digital Archive” which the museum has been working on continuously since 2007. All of Munch’s correspondence and writings are being published online, and are made freely available to everybody. We have letters and letter drafts, as well as diaries, literary sketches, prose poems and various notes. The material comprises more than 30,000 manuscript pages, and approximately two thousand persons and institutions appear as recipients and senders or are mentioned in the texts. It’s a very diverse collection of texts; there are letters in several languages: Norwegian, German, French, Swedish, Danish, and English.

7. If you were allowed to have one item from your collection in your office, what would it be and why?

I would choose one of Munch’s own photos showing his dog Fips in the sun on the porch of Munch’s house “Ekely” in Oslo. The shadow of Munch himself taking the photo is also showing in the photo, and the scene is so light, peaceful and beautiful.