Database of art pieces compiled on Internet

Graphic by Carlos Mella

Starting late April, students will be able to access the Internet in one more building on campus- the Lowe Art Museum, in a stride that Brian Dursum, museum director and chief curator, said will “integrate the museum with the rest of campus.”

As part of this effort, Dursum and others on the Lowe staff are uploading a database of more than 18,000 art pieces online in hopes to encourage students and faculty to discover the museum as a useful resource.

“It’s sad when I walk into our storage room and I see thousands of pieces that students can use as resources,” said Kara Schneiderman, assistant director for collections and exhibition services.

The Lowe can only showcase six to eight percent of its entire collection because of space, Schneiderman said. The current in-house database used by the Lowe staff for inventory and curating does not carry much information about pieces previously or frequently shown in the collection. The result is that exhibits tend to repeat pieces and leave out other works that haven’t been viewed.

The new database by Museum System, a collections management software, will allow the Lowe staff to keep a more comprehensive record of data. This will improve the process of keeping inventory and allow for more diversity in curating. Paired with access to the Internet, the database will allow employees to do their jobs more easily.

But for Schneiderman, her top priority is to implement change that will make the Lowe a better resource for students.

“We hope the database will open up our collection as a research tool,” she said.

Museum System has an online component called eMuseum that allows a museum to publish information that can assist students in research online while keeping other data, like owner addresses, confidential. Lowe’s version of eMuseum will be accessible through its Web site by early 2012.

Through eMuseum, students can browse the entire Lowe collection anywhere and at any time, which was not readily accessible to Lowe visitors before. The database will also eliminate the need for students to request to view an object.

“Thank God,” said Schneiderman, who prepared information for nearly 850 requests last year in a process that took several days for each request. “It will be much faster and it will open up information about the artwork at a whole new level.”

Dursum is hopeful that the wireless network will function well together with the database. However, he wants students to understand that connection is not available in the entire museum yet.

“We don’t want to frustrate students that can’t get connection because that is a big turnoff,” he said. The wireless connection will be installed throughout the rest of the museum by May this year.

Areas at the Lowe that are not yet accessible on the Internet are Kress, Matus Hall, Barton, Friends, Ancient American/Pacific Islands and the Palley Wing. According to IT technicians, installation in the remainder of the museum, especially Kress, is more difficult and will “involve locating conduit within the walls,” some of which are constructed of stone.

Chloe Herring may be contacted at