Traditional Fine Arts Organization

Content Enrichment Project for Topics in American Art


(above: Thomas Pollock Anshutz, A Rose, 1907, oil on canvas, 57.9 x 43.8 inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund, 1993. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)

Before 2007, few American art museums retained online information concerning exhibits after closing beyond their names and dates. Most did not even retain names of exhibits that ended over a year or two in the past. One of primary reasons that Resource Library, a publication of Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO), was founded was to preserve online as much information as possible about exhibits.
During the years between about 2007 and 2010, museums increasingly began to retain information on expired exhibits beyond bare basics. Museums affiliated with teaching institutions having strong art departments were often leaders, as well as larger metropolitan museums. Enlightened museums shared a common interest in using the Web as an additional educational platform. Information posted in advance or during exhibits retained by them after closings might include press releases, multiple images of artwork, explanatory paragraphs, video and audio files narrated by curators and even exhibition catalogues, brochures, gallery guides and related materials. After exhibits closed, most museums however removed informational materials, sometimes immediately or within several months.
Starting in about 2011-2012, the number of museums offering enhanced information about exhibits online grew markedly. Many exhibit materials previously available online only through Resource Library such as essays, wall panel texts, extended object labels and checklists, began to be posted on museums' websites. Equally important, fewer museums erased information soon after exhibits closed. Many increasingly saw exhibit information as having value for more than publicity and marketing uses. They realized that retention of exhibit information was a means of extending the education component of their mission statements. Permanent archiving of materials posted before and during exhibits shifted from being a rarity to a growing trend. An example of a museum with stable in-depth information is the Georgia Museum of Art. which publishes pages for past exhibits containing links to news releases, images, checklists, etc.
In February, 2014, Fairfield University advised TFAO that, starting with exhibits in 2014, comprehensive materials connected with Walsh (Thomas J.) Art Gallery exhibits would be available to the public via Digital Commons. This platform is separate from their website. Materials posted by the Gallery in Digital Commons could include an exhibition catalogue or brochure, didactic wall panels, extended object labels, checklists, marketing materials, object images, and other information.
As a response to these positive trends, during April, 2014 Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) initiated a multi-phase project to add more references to past exhibits at institutions in the "Other Web Resources" sections for topics in the Topics in American Art catalog.

(above: José Rafael Aragón, Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Nuestra Señora del Carmen), 9.3 x 7.2 inches, Barnes Foundation. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)



Phase One

Rather than using the National Calendar of Exhibitions as a guide to research prior exhibits, in 2014 TFAO began accessing hundreds of museum websites listed in the Art Museum, Gallery and Art Center index to survey thousands of past exhibitions. Then, selected instutions listed in the Academies, Associations, Ateliers and Societies index were surveyed. The audit was completed in May, 2015.

Phase One Research Protocol

The research protocol for a museum is:
1. Open a browser window, go to Upcoming audits, select the next museum to be audited, go to the museum's website and peruse the past exhibits section of the museum's website.
2. Open a second browser window showing TFAO's Art Museum, Gallery and Art Center sub-index page for the museum, which lists Resource Library articles related to exhibitions held at the museum.
3. Compare the list of Resource Library-published articles with the museum's list of past exhibits.
4. For any past exhibit listed in the museum's website having qualified information related to a topic without extensive Resource Library coverage of the exhibit, create an entry for the exhibit within the "Other Web Resources" section for the topic in the Topics in American Art catalog. Qualified information posted online must include either extended press releases, multi-paragraph texts or curator essays. Also included may be checklists, object labels, wall panel texts, catalogs, brochures, multiple images, and video gallery tours. If TFAO becomes aware of university museums using the Digital Commons platform, an additional part of TFAO's research protocol is to use Google search to locate URLs for Digital Commons posts. Digital Commons materials are best accessed via basic Google search by entering keywords from an exhibition's name followed by the museum's name.
5. Each qualified entry will have the name of the exhibit (with link) followed by the dates of the exhibit, the name of the exhibiting museum, a brief description of the type of online information, followed by the month and year that TFAO accessed the museum's website. The brief description may indicate that a curator's essay, online video, checklist, etc. is included.

Benefits of Phase One Survey

As a result of phase one, hundreds of additional references were added to the Topics in American Art catalog.
Phase one established a three-tier ranking of insitutions. The ranking provided a means of gaining efficiency for later phases:
Audited past exhibition pages of websites containing extensive information on at least one past exhibit, with latest audit date
Audited past exhibition pages of websites containing a moderate level of information on past exhibits, with latest audit date
Audited past exhibition pages of websites containing negligible information on past exhibits or museums no longer in existence, with latest audit date
Upcoming audits
As described in How TFAO updates calendars, outreach to an institutional source is discontinued if Resource Library does not publish an article or essay concerning the source for five years in a row. The phase one survey afforded TFAO the opportunity to discover and amend changes in source names and URLs for the convenience of viewers.

(above: John James Audubon (American (born Haiti), Les Cayes (Saint-Domingue) 1785-1851 New York), Goshawk, Stanley Hawk (No. 29), 1830, print, 38 1/4 x 24 1/4 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)



Phase Two

Rather than using websites listed in the Art Museum, Gallery and Art Center index and Academies, Associations, Ateliers and Societies index, for phase two TFAO used the National Calendar of Exhibitions as a guide to research prior exhibits. The institutions canvassed in phase one were excluded. Please click here to view phase two protocol, listing of institutions and survey results. Phase two was completed in December, 2015.

Phase Three

In phase three, conducted in 2016-17, phase one's institution websites containing extensive information on at least one past exhibit was again audited. The audit for each institution covered the time period between the date of the phase one audit and the date of the phase three audit.

(above: Ken Auster, Balboa Island Bridge, c. 2008, oil on canvas,18 x 24 inches. Private collection)


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Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

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