Kate Blanch

Image courtesy of Kate Blanch, Database Administrator. The Walters Art Museum.

Database Administrator, The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of only a few museums in the world to present such a wide spectrum of art. The collection spans fifty-five centuries and represents virtually every great civilization. Mummies, arms, armor, old master paintings, manuscripts and Art Nouveau jewelry can all be found within its walls. The Museum uses TMS to catalogue its diverse collection and share data between departments.

Database Administrator, Kate Blanch, focuses on prioritizing technologies that support the understanding and sharing of art at The Walters. For Kate, it’s about evaluating digital strategies that will benefit the Museum now and long into the future.

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

The biggest challenge is making the case for prioritizing technology projects, applications, and infrastructure; really any technology component. Technology is a doppelgänger. Its role is to support art interpretation and engagement, but if it is tacked on to the end of large, interpretive projects, like a crutch, you end up with a lot of small parts that don’t yield much for the long term. This is a challenging principle to convey.

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?

Many conversations and aspects of project planning now revolve around digital strategy. We’re continually being asked to work across departments, and take a look at the bigger picture before moving forward. This is a huge change in technology culture. Less than a decade ago, one person scanning slides to a hard drive was considered to be making an exciting impact. Now we take the opportunity to evaluate and strategize more outwardly before taking a course of action.

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

My answer is two-fold: 1) migrate every single digital resource we have to the cloud, and 2) buy two computer monitors for every staff member who uses the database.

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

I have a real soft spot for the SQL Authority blog by Pinal Dave. Some of the topics are foreign to me, some are pretty rudimentary, but looking at the way big companies solve their big data database issues is always a good perspective for me to see.

Also, the star of the show is Google. Some good Googling can empower you to do almost anything.

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

I have been managing a project to digitize conservation documentation for several years. It’s a slow moving, kind of grass roots effort. This project alone has taught me more about archives, digitization, document management and library science than I ever imagined.

6. If you were allowed to take home one item from your collection, what would it be and why?

It would be the Lalique Orchid Comb. I would love to have lived in the era where personal adornment was so elegant and exquisite.