The Los Angeles County Museum of Art received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) to support a comprehensive inventory of its collection of photography and time-based media. The project is led by LACMA’s Director of Conservation, Mark Gilberg, Department Head and Curator of Photography, Britt Salvesen, and Head of Paper Conservation, Janice Schopfer.
Gawain Weaver, conservator of photographs, was hired as a consultant for the project, which is being conducted by two IMLS Fellows, Asti Sherring and Laura Moeller. This project has also provided an opportunity for our Mellon Fellow Peter Konarzewski, to prepare a graduate thesis for his degree from the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany, on the exhibition, storage, and management of color and digital photographs.
This phase of the project is taking place in a converted gallery on Art of the Americas plaza. What will we be doing for a year? Like most activities at LACMA, the project is ambitious, forward thinking, and will help prepare the collections for more public engagement. We will be updating the data associated with each photograph in the collection; examining condition and housing; developing protocols for accessing and handling the collection; and inviting public engagement with programs related to conservation and collections management. An integral part of the project is being directed by our conservation photographer, Yosi Pozeilov. Under his supervision, our conservation technician, Maria Charette, we will take a digital image of each photographic print, not currently documented, and attach those digital files to the TMS database record. This will improve the user interface in our database for both staff and visitors to our study center. Members of our time-based media team, Siska Genbrugge and Alyssa Morasco, Kimberlee Granholm, and Angela Chen will be addressing the emerging needs related to acquiring, processing, housing, and storing time-based media objects, including film, video, slide, digital projections, and sound installations. All of this preparation leads toward future initiatives to expand collections access and enrich the experience of our museum visitors.
Using a binocular microscope, IMLS Fellow Laura Moeller will determine what color process was used by the artist to create this color photograph. A standard list of photographic processes created for this grant make searching the database more accurate and efficient for both staff and researchers. Gawain Weaver (left), our photographic consultant, will be overseeing the process identification and conducting staff training to improve the staff’s ability to correctly identify and care for a wide variety of photographs in LACMA’s collection. This project constitutes the first phase for the planning of a proposed Art+Film Lab at LACMA, opening in fall 2014. This study center will be a multiuse site for presenting a variety of lens-, film-, and time-based works of art in the context of an encyclopedic museum. It will also serve as a prototype for other departments to create study centers for object based learning as part of the strategic plans being developed for the museum in the coming years. In 2006, LACMA projected an annual 3% growth rate for its photography collection. Since then, however, the collection has doubled in size, with a current total of approximately 15,000 objects. LACMA’s photography collection is now one of the top 10 of museums nationwide, and we expect its stature to rise with future acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions include the important Vernon Collection (highlighted in the exhibition See The Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection in the Resnick Pavilion, closing on March 23), which is comprised of over 3,500 photographs by 700 artists. The collection was instrumental in strengthening LACMA's holdings of 19th-century photography. There was also a joint acquisition with the J. Paul Getty Museum of the Robert Mapplethorpe Archive, which includes more than 2,000 works. But it doesn’t stop there: LACMA has been acquiring in nearly every curatorial department throughout the museum both photographs and time-based media objects. All of this activity is in keeping with the Michael Govan’s cross-disciplinary vision for the museum.
Multiple galleries throughout the campus play host to time-based media that span across numerous curatorial area. Check out the Art of the Middle East galleries on the fourth floor of the Ahmanson Building Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, 2012; the first floor of the Ahmanson Building, the Art of the Pacific Gallery Shigeyuki Kihara’s Siva in Motion; and an exhibition on contemporary art on the fourth floor of BCAM, Fútbol: The Beautiful Game. Please stay tuned as we will be returning with new posts from our inventory throughout the year.