Monday, August 3, 2009

The Accession Log

Winslow Homer's Eight Bells is accessioned into the collection in the Log.One of the projects I've taken on in my "spare time," if such a concept exists in any museum environment, is to study our Accession Log and compare it to the information in our collections database.

The Accession Log is a list that tracks the objects we have formally accepted into the collection. As each object was acquired for the museum, it was entered into the log. It exists as a stack of typewritten sheets of paper held together in a felt-covered loose-leaf binder. It has that glorious scent of age that is sweet to any Registrar's senses. It was maintained at the Addison from 1928, when we started acquiring objects for the future "Addison Gallery of Art," through 1977. After that, different methods were used to track our newly acquired objects, cumulating, nowadays, in our computerized collections database, a version of which is accessible to the public on our website.

The new and the old: computerized collection database next to the log.By comparing the log to the object records on our database, I've been happily able to rectify many of our inventory anomalies. It has also been interesting to see the changes in our collecting practices over the years. Early on, paintings and drawings by older, established American artists took precedence. As time went on, prints and photography, many by young, relatively unknown artists (at the time) became more prevalent. Nowadays, our collecting embraces all American artists and media, from oil on canvas to conceptual to digital media.

We still do maintain a paper record of our objects as they are acquired into the collection. I print out a list from the database after every Trustees Meeting, no longer requiring the loose-leaf and typewriter of old. I wonder, though, how future Registrars will be tracking their objects?

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

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