CANADIAN MUSEUM ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Toronto, March 25-28, 2009
Holocaust Era Cultural Property: Workshop on Research Methodology
Presenter: Anabelle Kienle
This workshop outlined the steps taken by fine arts provenance researchers, taking a particular focus on case studies of artworks that were taken from Jewish families of European countries during the Nazi occupation. The following is their general research methodology which can be applied to any and all collection research projects.
- Establish target list – identify objects, utilize pre-existing information, input information in database
- Group objects by priority – start with most important objects.
Confirm, Expand & Establish Chain of Ownership
- Physical examination of the object, consulting with in-house resources. Gather documentation.
- Provenance research with a variety of sources, including exhibit history, genealogy, bibliographies.
Integrate & Disseminate Information
- Fulfill mandate by establishing and following standards, integrating data into the collections database, compile provenance report
- Consider options for knowledge dissemination, ie newsletters, exhibit labels, exhibition, scholarly contributions etc.
When research fine arts collections, certain information is expected that is slightly different from your normal artifact research. When examining the object, note all labels, marks, etc as this will provide preliminary provenance information. Labels have been documented by several galleries and compiled into searchable databases, most notably through the National Gallery in Washington. Information should be compiled chronologically, including exact dates, owner’s birth & death dates, and any known dates & methods of transfers of ownership. Finally, include all references used during the research process so that someone could repeat the research if desired.
Out of the Ordinary - Engaging New Audiences
Moderator: Gerry Osmond
“In order to be relevant we have to be seen in places that matter to our audience & community”. Through a series of case studies, panelists shared their success stories of reaching out to their community and expanding their audiences.
NB Museum initiated Free February in order to try and boost visitation. Not only was this successful, increasing their February numbers by 420%, but their March numbers increased slightly as well. Feedback showed that many visitors were local and had never been to the museum before, and they intended to return. With the current economy, they were looking for entertainment and activities in their own backyard, and the museum is able to meet this need.
NB Museum partnered with Bay Ferries to share social and natural history educational programming with passengers on the Princess of Acadia. Coupons were given out to the audience, encouraging them to visit Saint John’s museums to learn more, and the NB Museum reported a marked increase in visitation by Bay Ferry passengers. Recognized as an innovative partnership the museum and company were short-listed for an award for their creativity.
By partnering with Bachelor of Education programs, Alberta museums have engaged with pre-service teachers in order to establish a relationship and induce them to bring their students to the museum once they are working in the classroom. Participants work with archivists and curators to gain a behinds-the-scenes appreciation of museum work and draw connections between museums and curriculum content. This lets new teachers and museum staff create authentic experiences for their students.
A less orthodox method of educational outreach is being done by the Calgary Police Museum. Instead of focusing entirely on the history of the police force, the museum acts as a crime prevention centre. Working with the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre, recent graduates share their stories through a “dead end street” exhibit, showing the gradual descent into the world of crime & drugs. It is in essence a variation of the ‘scared straight’ idea, but also allows past offenders to work with the community as part of their rehabilitation process.