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Friday, May 31 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
(Book and Paper) Art on Paper (Discussion Session): Making Terminology Meaningful: Guiding the Description of Media for Works of Art on Paper

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Anyone who studies exhibition wall labels has observed the variation in the descriptions of materials and techniques in works of art on paper, which can be dramatic both in presentation and degree of accuracy even within a single institution. Access to such information through collections databases and websites makes the dissemination of accurate and consistent descriptions increasingly important and highlights the need for a more coordinated, cross-institutional approach. The inaugural session of the Art on Paper Discussion Group (APDG) will focus on this issue.

Conservators’ specialized knowledge and their experience in examining and identifying materials in works of art gives them the unique ability to interpret and present information about artists’ materials and techniques. Their experience also makes them well-suited, in discussion with curators and cataloguers, to help address issues of how to enter the information into collections management systems and how to save it in a detailed format that can be edited or abbreviated for specialized uses (such as wall labels), possibly by defining separate fields for different levels of detail.

The issue of providing accurate, appropriate and consistent descriptive terminology, motivated conservators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to initiate a Media Terminology Project, supported in-part by an IMLS 21st-Century Museum Professionals Grant and in collaboration with the project’s working group members who represent museums across the country. The project began in November 2011—compiling, reviewing and evaluating existing materials descriptions and guidelines—activities that provided the foundation for drafting guidelines for describing materials and techniques in works on paper and a system for entering the information in collections information systems. Comprehensive supporting documents (glossaries, timelines and materials hierarchies) also were created to facilitate consistency in recording observations made about materials and techniques.

This project’s overarching goal is to enhance conservators’ ability to communicate their knowledge about materials and techniques in order to provide allied professionals with consistent, understandable and agreed upon language for describing works on paper. This in turn will benefit the public by providing clearer, more informative descriptions in catalogues, exhibition wall labels and on the Web. The end result will be the development of a written guide to be shared online through the AIC book and paper Group Paper Conservation Catalog Wiki and other venues.

We hope to engage the wider conservation community in helping to develop the guidelines. To that end, during this year’s APDG session the PMA project conservators and working group members will present the guidelines in their current draft form. They will highlight some of the more complex issues involved in the description of works on paper as well as data entry. Working group members then will lead break-out sessions focused on specific issues to receive contributions and critical feedback from the conservation community to help in the development of the guidelines and assess their effectiveness.

avatar for Nancy Ash, [Fellow]

Nancy Ash, [Fellow]

Senior Conservator of Works of Art on Paper, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Senior conservator of works of art on paper at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1991. Previously at CCAHA and National Gallery of Art. Co-author of Watermarks in Rembrandt Prints, 1998, systematic study of papers used in Rembrandt's etchings; and of Descriptive Terminology for... Read More →

Friday May 31, 2013 10:30am - 12:00pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom E 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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