Annika Erikson in conversation with Amanda Kohn – Associate Registrar at the Portland Art Museum – discussing Articheck’s digital condition reporting tool for exhibitions and loans.
Annika: It would be great if you could tell us more about PAM and the exhibitions team behind it.
Amanda: The Portland Art Museum, with a collection of 42,000 objects, is one of the leading cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest. Our Collections Department consists of three registrars, one collections manager, one conservator and five preparators. Our exhibitions are varied, covering ancient to contemporary times; design exhibitions including architecture, cars, fashion, performance art and video installations. The number of lenders can vary greatly as well, from permanent collection exhibitions with no lenders to collector exhibitions that may include 75 lenders or more. Exhibitions can have one object to a few hundred.
“Everyone I’ve shared an Articheck report with has been impressed. I think the professional look can’t be denied.”
Not Just For Exhibitions and Loans
Annika Erikson: What do you use Articheck for?
Amanda: This year was the first time we’ve used Articheck. As a trial run, our head of collections agreed to a low-level subscription used strictly for exhibition loans. As I used Articheck more and more through the year, the other condition reporters in our department tried it out. We just got an unlimited plan to use for all condition reporting – incoming and outgoing loans, conservation reports, new acquisitions and exhibitions.
Annika: What is your Articheck workflow like? Do you import CSV details from your collections management system (CMS) onto the web portal first?
Amanda: So far, since I’ve been the only person in the department regularly using Articheck, we haven’t explored importing CSV details from our CMS yet. In the next year, with the unlimited plan, we will be doing this as it’s not uncommon for us to receive large gift groups and bequests. Articheck will save us a lot of time! Updates can be made as needed through the run of the exhibition. If I’m lucky and no incidents have happened to bring condition into question, then there is only the incoming re-port for each object.
“When I have had to make updates, it has been very easy. The exhibition-related reports are sometimes shared with lenders if they’re interested.”
Completing reports collaboratively on site
Annika: can you tell me about a specific project?
Amanda: A project that comes right to mind was Josh Kline. The exhibition consisted of 5 lenders and about 30 contemporary objects made from various media, including 3-D printed objects, TVs with lightbox frames, “Teletubby” mannequins, and plastic sculptures. There were no typical materials used and so many components for each object. Only one lender provided condition reports, so I was starting from scratch for most, and the artist was on site for the entirety of the installation handling the objects and directing our team. Not only was it a complicated installation, but we were in the furthest gallery from my office – about a 10-minute walk. Either, I wouldn’t have marked photographs for the condition reports, or it would have taken me much more time to take new pictures, reprint and mark accordingly with each new object unpacked. Articheck was indispensable for this installation. Having the reports prepared before we began, I was able to switch between reports easily as the artist moved from crate to crate
What’s great about having the condition report templates is that it reminds you what to look out for. I feel this has led to more consistently accurate reports. Not once have I missed out on taking a picture to include with the report. Having Articheck on an iPad with an excellent camera gives me no excuses to miss this important part of reporting. Everyone I’ve shared an Articheck report with has been impressed. I think the professional look of it can’t be denied.