Posts tagged ‘Aubree Jacobs’

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Behind the scenes at the ASU Art Museum

Below: Gordon Knox (Director, ASU Art Museum) looks on curiously as Julie Thies, left, performs one of her TMS training sessions. Heather Sealy Lineberry (Senior Curator and Associate Director) also attends. Photo by Stu Mitnik.

Transitions are happening everywhere, from the changing seasons (which in Phoenix we call “hot” and “really, really hot”), to the updated layout on Facebook that caused millions to panic. The Arizona State University Art Museum is no exception to these recent shifts.

The art museum has recently made a transition from an unwieldy Access Database to The Museum System (TMS), a super sleek and powerful database, software which also graces the collections of such prestigious institutions as the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Metropolitan in New York City. The Museum System combines user-friendly features with a multi-faceted, innovative approach to adding in-depth details to collections and records.  With TMS, the simplest aspects of an artwork are easily accessible, such as an artist’s birthplace or the year a piece was made, yet it also allows for users to find pieces using ambiguous terms, dates and locations, because of its extensive database.

Julie Thies, an independent consultant who has worked with TMS for 12 years, says, “If I didn’t have TMS, there are some questions I would have a hard time answering.” She recollects an instance in which a museum goer called about a piece he had seen several years prior: “With TMS, I didn’t have to hunt through tons of filing drawers to try to find the answer. And I don’t think the answer was anywhere in a drawer.”

Julie, who was the collections database manager at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky for 10 years and who got her start using TMS as an intern at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Sackler Gallery, both of which are part of the Smithsonian Institution, came to the ASU Art Museum in December as an independent consultant to assist with the launch of The Museum System.  Without Julie’s expertise, the switch to TMS would have seemed almost impossible, as she was a beacon of hope and calm when we were caught in the tumultuous and dark seas of database conversion.

The breadth and intensity of the switch to TMS is almost hard to describe, but mentioning the numbers — a migration of close to 14, 000 objects as well as 14, 000 object images — it’s a bit easier to understand the magnitude of such an undertaking. Regardless of the time, energy and potential loss of sanity, however, the database conversion is a welcome and much needed improvement to the museum collection, one that is incredibly valuable, time-saving, in-depth, and a rescuer of busy museum professionals.

Each user of The Museum System is bound to have a favorite feature that makes their life easier. For Julie Thies, the Wisest of All Who Use TMS, it’s the endless possibilities that rank number one for her. “You can track anything about an object, where it has been, where it is and where it is going. You can manage exhibitions, images and artist information. Over the years it is nice to watch the information grow and develop, and you can see a real history of an object within the institution.”

A conversion to a new database system not only eases the collection process but helps people to better understand a collection as a whole, in parts, or as singular objects. With this understanding, our museum then becomes a more accessible platform from which to be involved in a dialogue about art. And in the end, isn’t that what a collection should do?

Aubree Jacobs, Assistant to the Registrar, True TMS believer.

Above, left to right, Gordon Knox, Heather Sealy Lineberry and ASU Art Museum Registrar Anne Sullivan take in a TMS training session. Photo by Stu Mitnik.

May 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm 1 comment

Cleaning the meat wall (yes, that says “meat wall”)

Intern Aubree Jacobs tidies up Adriana Varejão’s Ruina de Charque-Quina.

The ASU Art Museum is known for having some powerful pieces of social commentary in its permanent collection; one example is Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão’s Ruina de Charque-Quina (Corner Jerked-Beef Ruin), 2003, a piece acquired by the Museum in 2006.

Sitting between the Museum’s front doors, this imposing piece — oil on wood and polyurethane, although it looks much heavier and more substantial than that, as if it had been ripped from the corner of a building covered in glazed tile — is a head turner. For one thing, it towers over visitors, even the tall ones. But even more remarkable is the red substance sandwiched between the tile surfaces. Where insulation might normally go, the space appears to have been packed with large slabs of raw meat.

Varejão’s intention is to show the underbelly of Brazil’s rich history, and to expose the dark truth behind the dazzling churches and ornate dwellings of that country’s colonial elite: The economy that made possible such wealth and extravagance rested on slavery. A text panel next to the work explains that it’s about the tension between social convention and what it glosses over, and that it references both violence and the body without actually showing either.

Aubree Jacobs, a senior double-majoring in Art History and Museum Studies, is the intern in the Museum’s registrar’s office . The other day, as part of her museum duties, Aubree was called upon to deploy skills that she probably didn’t learn in college. Armed with a small brush, white gloves and a special over-the-shoulder vacuum cleaner, Aubree meticulously cleaned the Varejão, particularly those places on the explosed edges of the wall that tend to gather dust. It must have looked a little strange to visitors, but it’s all part of a day’s work when you’re taking good care of the art that visitors come to see.

August 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm


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