2016 Fall Art Doc Final Projects

This proposal offers the (fictional) New York Museum of Art (NYMA) a systematic approach for organizing and processing files and related documentation in its Net Art Collection. The proposed strategy will ensure that materials are prepared for long-term preservation and that items in the collection are described consistently. The goal of the proposed project is to facilitate ongoing management of the Net Art Collection files as well as access to the materials.
-Sanam Aarabi a Jenny Korns

-Mollie Echeverria and Victoria Velasco

This proposal is in response to (fictional artist) Suzanne Yee’s request and is intended for her to gain a better understanding of her inventory and working processes. We plan to assist in the process of maintaining records both in her possession and not her possession. By utilizing the information provided by the artist, this proposal lays out a scope of work and methodology. Our goal is to introduce and demonstrate professional standards for documenting and organizing artwork and accompanying material, demonstrate an organizational method that the artist and her employees can follow for future materials, and provide suggestions for physical handling and storage of artwork and process material.
-Mariaelena Garcia and Eve Perry

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A behind-the-scenes look at the Robert Rauschenberg Archives

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The Rauchenberg Archive

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 9.11.37 AMWHEN YOU’RE LOOKING for the Robert Rauschenberg archive, everything starts to resemble a Rauschenberg. The chance juxtaposition of a vibrant yellow school bus next to a red Staples sign seems somehow intended, part of the artist’s grand design. So too might the pale lavender blossoms of wisteria that frame the gray painted door tucked away in a hardscrabble industrial zone of lots and chain-link fencing.
Behind that door in Westchester County, N.Y., is an astounding secret: a fluorescent-lit hangar hung with nearly a hundred rusty bicycles; Rubbermaid tubs full of old neckties and scraps of bright, patterned fabric; boxes marked “Polaroids” and “Playing cards from Japan”; dark blue bags labeled “Merce Mannequins” (Merce Cunningham, the dancer and choreographer, was the artist’s friend and collaborator) and file cabinets, some still taped shut, containing folders of ephemera along with correspondence from the likes of Jacqueline Onassis, Jasper Johns and Richard Gere. Rauschenberg purchased the high-security warehouse, which contains areas for art conservation and cold storage facilities, in 2006, to consolidate his art holdings. After the artist’s death at age 82 in 2008, it took four years for his assets to be transferred from the estate to the Rauschenberg Foundation; after that, most of the contents from his properties in Manhattan and on Captiva Island, Fla., were packed up and transported here. Earlier this year, a team of archivists started to unpack the shipment, which includes 269 boxes of paper, 50 boxes of audiovisual data and 45 boxes of “source materials”: the things Rauschenberg kept around him that he might one day have turned into artworks. [Read more – source: NYTMagazine]

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Artist Foundation – Persona Group Discussion With Kathleen Nugent Magan

Artist Foundation Persona Group Session

Mollie Echeverria, Victoria Velasco, and Kathleen Nugent Magan

The Artist Foundation Persona Group met with Kathleen Nugent Magan, Executive Director of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Kathleen gave us some background on Tawney (1907-2007), a mixed-media artist who became active later in life after moving to New York in 1957. Tawney worked in a wide variety of media, including textile art, drawing, and collage. Tawney was not a consistent record-keeper during her lifetime, making the organization of her works and documents after her death a time-consuming process.



The Leonore Tawney Foundation keeps track of Tawney’s artworks using a Filemaker-based database system. Each work is assigned a unique inventory number, along with standard description categories like the title, dimensions, and medium of the work. The database also includes free-text fields like Exhibition History/Notes to record more extensive information about objects when possible.

The Leonore Tawney Foundation archives contain the artist’s correspondences along with press documentation, photographs, and the artist’s journals and notebooks. These files are stored in boxes and managed using Excel-based finding aids. Tawney’s journals and notebooks often provide insight into her creation process, and the location of journals relevant to the creation of a particular object are noted in the object’s database record.

Tawney’s works are found in many major museum collections, including a recent donation to the Whitney. The Foundation is eventually seeking to place all but a core selection of Tawney’s work in museums. Kathleen careful considers the needs of each institution when offering donations, as well as which works will play well off of one another within the collection.

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Living Artist – Discussion with artist Rachel Selekman


The living artist group met with Rachel Selekman to the discuss the kinds of things information professionals should take into consideration when organizing and documenting the art of a living artist. The conversation proved incredibly useful in understanding how an artist visualizes and organize her work including the types of information she catalogs and the tools and methods she uses. Throughout the conversation, the common theme was respect for an artist’s intentions. Information professionals intending to process or catalog a collection should always take artist’s intention into account. Installation and presentation notes should be documented well enough that works can be installed independently of the artist’s presence and still maintain the integrity of their vision. This concept was confirmed in the reading Stewardship of Artists’ Records where the idea of “monumentalization” was used by the Director of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation to refer to the freezing up of works after an artist’s death. The main goal of art documentation is to keep the artist’s expressions dynamic and alive indefinitely.

Another topic that came up during our conversation was that of the importance to retain their own records. This is a theme that also came up within the Artist Estate group. Only an artist truly understands the intricacy of their own work. Before they die, artists should have kept a detailed record of their work so that their estate can better understand how the materials should be handled. Going into this project, the hardest aspect will be trying to organize the material in a way that respects the artist’s original intention and method of organizing (if there was one).

-Mariaelena Garcia, Eve Perry

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Art Museum group – Discussion with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Permanent Collection Documentation Manager


Maggie Mugharbel, Jenny Korns, Sanam Aarabi

Our persona group is an art museum, which has a collection of more than fifty commissioned net art works that it is seeking to manage. In addition to the code and scripts that make up the artworks, the art museum is looking to describe related documentation, such as commission contracts and technical documents. On September 7, 2016, our group met with Majida (Maggie) Mugharbel, Permanent Collection Documentation Manager from the Whitney Museum of American Art. Maggie discussed what her job entails, what the Museum’s procedures are for commissioning art, and the way documenting the permanent collection differs from commissioned net art pieces. The discussion helped our group understand the real life management of commissioned net art in an art museum setting.

A Collection Documentation Manager at the Whitney Museum is responsible, in part, for research pertaining to new acquisitions, completing paperwork for the board of trustees, and ensuring documentation is consistent for different object types. Maggie also discussed net art commissioned for the Whitney Museum’s Artport project, which was created in 2001 by the Whitney Museums curator Christiane Paul. Paul determines which artists are awarded commissions. She also determines when to consult with conservation and preservation staff, and issues like browser obsolescence are of great concern. Maggie explained that the museum now has over eighty Artport projects. Nearly all net art featured are commissioned works under non-exclusive licensing; therefore, the Museum shares rights to these projects with the artists. The Artport website showcases commissioned net art works as well as one piece of net art that the museum owns in its permanent collection.

As Maggie pointed out, permanent collection pieces have defined rules of documentation and cataloging, which is not the case with Artport works. Maggie stressed that they still need to work out a process for making the cataloging of these works more consistent. For instance, some works have records in their TMS database and some others might only have hard copy records. For works in the permanent collection, individual records are created for each work in the database and a hard copy file also exists. Maggie also noted medium and dimension pixels as examples of cataloging inconsistencies. While LIDO is used for documentation guidelines, there are not as many fields used for net art works as for items from the permanent collection.

Maggie discussed the different types of documentation associated with net art works, including commission agreements, non-exclusive license agreements, and technical documents, such as instructions. Works in their permanent collection are documented through a number of different questionnaires, such as an object questionnaire, conservation questionnaire, and artist questionnaire. A questionnaire regarding the artist’s motivations would be helpful in documenting net art commissions.

The conversation with Maggie was very informative, and she was more than generous with her time. Some particularly informative moments came when she posed questions to us that she and the museum staff have deliberated. Topics like where the works should live in the database and whether it would acceptable to display net art in a museum environment gave us much to consider. 

– Jenny Korns, Sanam Aarabi

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News: Mike Kelley Foundation Copyright Policy


An interesting piece that appeared yesterday in The Art Newspaper. For some reason, the full article was removed from The Art Newspaper’s website. You can get the gist of it from the summary.

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Richard Hamilton, Marcel Duchamp, 1967

Art Documentation RFPs 2015
Art Documentation RFPs 2016
Art Documentation RFPs 2017