Oral History of Museum Computing: Eleanor Fink
This oral history of museum computing is provided by Eleanor Fink, and was recorded on the 5th of March, 2021, by Paul Marty and Kathy Jones. It is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC-BY), which allows for unrestricted reuse provided that appropriate credit is given to the original source. For the recording of this oral history, please see https://youtu.be/uAYOZ6EvN_M.
My experience with museums started before the dawn of using computers in museums, and eventually evolved to the point that I became a catalyst and creator of some of the core documentation standards that are used by museums around the world. My academic background is art history with a concentration in medieval art. I was going to go on for my Ph.D., but I was offered and accepted a position at the Smithsonian American Art Museum [SAAM] before continuing on to obtain my Ph.D., and that changed everything.
So, ironically, I studied medieval art, but my first position after my M.A. was in a museum that collected American art, which I knew very little about at the time. Early on, even before I started working at the museum, I was very interested in how you organize knowledge. The reason for that is that while I was in graduate school, the department of art history asked me if I’d like to help out in the slide library and organize the visual materials. I thought it would be a great way to study for tests, so I said yes. Soon I discovered that each professor organized visual materials differently. There was no consistency or overall logic to the organization of the slide library which made it difficult to find slides. So, I delved into schemas for organizing knowledge
I attended the College Art Association Conference in New York that included trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton Art Museum. I visited the slide libraries in both places only to discover each followed a different schema for overall organization of their visual materials. One method was by period: ancient, medieval, modern, etc. Another was by type: monument, paintings, sculpture, etc. I learned that there were different ways you could organize knowledge, but at that time — before computers — that meant you were limited to choosing only one schema for physically filing the slides. The one method was based on what worked best for patrons. If your patrons had different needs or multiple interests, you might include cross reference cards. In essence, access to knowledge at this stage was more or less one-dimensional.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), was and still is a research museum. Meaning it has a scholars and fellows center, and each year, a number of people working on their Ph.D. or post-doctorates spend a year at the museum exploring its unique collections. For example, the museum obtained from Italy, the studio of Hiram Powers with his plaster casts. SAAM also has extensive archival and other research collections.
Joshua Taylor, who was the Director of the museum at the time, wanted an art historian to set up a photo archive like the Berenson archive in Italy – a place where scholars could examine photographs of works of art. He wanted extensive coverage of American art. The core part of that photo archive became the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection – [a collection of 127,000 photographic negatives spanning decades of American art]. I was responsible for planning its transport to the museum, and then cataloging it. I discovered, there were nitrate negatives scattered throughout the collection that were deteriorating. I proposed indexing the collection as quickly as possible, identifying the nitrate negatives, and producing a print of each negative. SAAM did not have the funding. I knew I had to apply for grants. I began writing to scholars to gather evidence that the photo documentation of works of art in the collection was unique. Scholars were thrilled and wrote to me stating that what I had sent them was in some cases the only record of a lost or damaged work of art. The feedback clearly indicated the collection had to be saved. The evidence of value helped me raise funding from various foundations to set up a model preservation project. My most successful outreach came from a partnership I negotiated with the Getty Trust to purchase one print of each of the 127,000 negatives in the Juley Collection. Over a period of several years, one million dollars from the Getty covered the cost of six staff responsible for cataloging the collection, copying the nitrate film, and producing prints from each negative.
When the museum’s fellows came to my office to look for visual materials, I soon learned that they weren’t necessarily interested in searching by period, type, or even by a certain artist. Most often, they were interested in finding images that depicted certain things or specific subjects. For example, they might ask me for images depicting women with white parasols, children playing games, and other genre scenes from different decades. Their interest in finding certain subjects depicted in images kept deepening my whole framework for how to organize visual materials and provide access for research purposes.
I realized more and more that the one-dimensional approach was going to be too limited. You needed something that was multi-dimensional. Fortunately, right at that time, the Smithsonian’s central office for computing services offered free programming and free advice. I approached them and explained what I needed and they started to help me think through how to set up some kind of a computer system for the photographs and the Juley collection to meet the research needs of the scholars and fellows.
Parallel to my digging into and learning about computers, the museum engaged in a large national research project that centered on collecting information about American paintings executed before 1914. Joshua Taylor felt that American art was not well understood and it was not a major area of study at universities. He wanted to help deepen the academic as well as the public’s appreciation and understanding of American art, and so the museum started this large nationwide project to collect information on paintings executed before 1914. The Smithsonian central computer was used to store information collected across the United States. Forms were sent out, and volunteers across the United States would collect data from museums, churches, institutions, and private homes. Once the forms were filled out and then sent back to the Smithsonian, they were entered via optical character recognition on the Smithsonian central computer.
The whole idea of collecting information about art outside the walls of the museum was unique at the time. Also at that time, I joined and became active with the Museum Computer Network Association that was started by David Vance with a membership drawn from the museum community. The name “museum network” struck me – particularly because SAAM engaged in nationwide research projects. I thought why couldn’t information be shared across museums so that research projects like the Bicentennial Inventory of American Paintings and computerized research projects we launched later could easily access data from other museums and places. By the 1980’s SAAM had five large computer based research projects numbering over 500,000 records on the subject of American art – not just the museum’s own collection. For example, there was the Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalog Index. I was responsible for planning and initiating Save Outdoor Sculpture – another national project collecting data about sculptures in parks and town squares across the US. I had designed a rapid indexing method for the Peter A. Juley and Son Collection to capture information before a negative deteriorated., and so forth. If computer networks existed, information could be collected electronically, rather than by filling out forms by hand.
The concept of network and sharing data shaped my thinking as did the research interests of the fellows. Eventually I became Chief of what was called the Office of Research Support. The five research database projects I oversaw had all been created at different stages and used different computer programs. The staff entering the data were not located in the same office. All the data was still offline at this point only accessible by printout. I noticed that when a fellow or scholar came to me, they were sometimes surprised when I mentioned that we had additional research data base projects that had information about a particular artist they were writing about. It occurred to me that it would help, if we produced an index by artist drawn from the five databases that could serve as a finding aid.
So I asked the Office of Computer Services to produce a comprehensive artists’ listing. The result indicated huge spelling discrepancies and inconsistencies with the way names were formatted. Good access to information stored on computers depends on consistency. I began to seek sources for art data standards and artist authorities. I discovered there were no standards for managing art information aside from cottage industry examples. I ended up creating my own subject thesaurus to help the scholars who were primarily interested in things depicted in works of art. It was quite elaborate.
I would have preferred to use a standard vetted by the museum community, but museums were inventing their own local standards at this stage. There were no national standards. I visited the Library of Congress, to find out more about NACO, a national authority for names of authors. I pointed out that artists were represented in the collections of hundreds of museums and that museums would benefit from having access to an artist authority like NACO’s authority for authors. I asked if NACO would consider expanding its services to include names of artists?
They looked at me and said, “Well, who would be the authority to validate which form of an artist’s name would be used?” Fast forward a few years and I would end up taking a leave of absence from SAAM to spend a few years at the Getty to head and establish the Getty Vocabulary Program and later resign from the Smithsonian and become the Director of the Getty Information Institute. My transition to the Getty happened because of my research on standards and exploration of where to find art documentation standards and name authorities. One day, John Walsh, who was the Director of the Getty Museum at one period and Henry Millen, who was an advisor to the Getty and head of CASVA [Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts] in the National Gallery of Art, came to see me. They looked at my comprehensive artist listing and said it was excellent. They mentioned that the Getty has several research databases and staff discovered similar problems with name inconsistencies and lack of a name authority. At the time, the Getty was developing the Provenance Index, Witt Computer Index in the U.K., the Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance, [and the Bibliography of the History of Art]. They were all created on different platforms by different scholars. They said they were very interested in my own efforts to identify standards and name authorities.
And, so, in essence, their visit led to an invitation from the Getty to create and set up the Getty Vocabulary Program. When I got to the Getty, I hired staff and together we focused on the Union List of Artists Names, and the Thesaurus of Geographic Names, and then later metadata standards like the Categories for the Description of Works of Art and Object ID, both metadata standards I initiated. But, before going forward anymore, I will just say that I think there was very little understanding of the needs for documentation standards as they evolved in the museum community, especially by museum administration. There was and in many respects there still is a lack of understanding about the effort and work that goes into cataloging and maintaining good documentation There is particularly a lack of understanding of the importance of sharing data and adhering to international standards.
When we brought the first computer into SAAM to begin adding the information from our collection management system. well, I shouldn’t say “collection management system”; there were none yet you could purchase, like today. Companies were just beginning to develop collection management systems. You had Willoughby [Lenore Sarasan’s company] and one or two others, but there was a lot of work that had to be invested in maintaining the data that just was not, I would say, known by the administration.
And today, to some degree, I think it’s the same. Although we’ve come a long way, I think that museum administration and trustees are seduced by the shiny technological things and are hesitant to understand and invest in a long-term [digital] infrastructure in order to maintain and upgrade systems, keep staff trained, and adhere to international standards so that data can be shared. Progress that’s been made, but the lack of understanding of what’s involved in documenting and the commitment that has to be made in order to maintain and provide good data is still an issue.
My outreach at the Getty and while I was at the Smithsonian to work with the larger documentation community through collaboration and my active role with the Museum Computer Network and also being a past president of the Visual Resource Association – contributed to becoming Director of the Getty Art History Information Program [AHIP], which later became known as the Getty Information Institute [GII]. I redefined the vision and mission of the Getty Art History Program to focus on universal access to images and art information, going back to that idea of museums sharing data, and knowledge.
My staff and I produced a video, which I would love to have in this interview, if the link can be inserted. It is called the ‘Virtual Database: Art Information on the Networks,” [https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IuavP0M7HThcYydGAEpzxGKebmGSyKwU/view?usp=sharing (note there is a delay before the video starts).] It’s a great piece for showing the benefits of collaboration, standards, and being able to connect the dots and share information.
The contents include statements from people like Max Anderson and scholars like Marilyn Lavin and Henry Millen. Henry Millen talks about going to photo archives all over the world, looking for photographic records of architectural drawings difficult to find anywhere else and then finding out the archive was closed that day and the next, etc… The stories and statements support my vision of universal access to art information – why not be able to search online across all photo archives no matter where they are located – that is what is meant by a virtual database – seamless access. The need for international standards we talk about in the video provides the glue to achieve the vision. AHIP/GII continued promoting the concept until our Institute, was closed after the big reorganization. After, Harold Williams retired, and Barry Munitz came on board as President and CEO. Munitz decided to close the Information and Education Institutes at the Getty, and then three years later, all the directors of the Getty were gone, except for Deborah Marrow, who headed the grant program. One can call it corporate change. Younger directors were named.
[Some staff at the Getty tried to shadow GII’s vision over the following years after GII’s closure. The concepts in the video were ahead of the times]. The concept was in part inspired by the debut of the Internet. Once the Internet came into being, it became apparent as a web of webs that we didn’t need to think about a network, like in the days of the Museum Computer Network, but rather the data could be connected by using international standards, so that you would be able to search across the universe of art information. And later, linked data became a vehicle for doing that and inspired me to launch what was called the American Art Collaborative, which was a group of 14 museums, large and small, some at universities, some in, more remote areas and some in large cities, to share their data, and convert it to linked data so that you could easily search across the contents of the museums, and that’s beginning to happen now. It’s happening more in Europe and in Canada than it is in the United States, but it is going to happen here, more and more as, as well. It’s just a matter again of investments, and trying to help the administration understand the value of easily linking an item in their collection to the universe of information about that work of art and artist, etc. [see Creating a Digital Cultural Heritage Ecosystem: Global Documentation Standards and Linked Open Data https://eleanorfink.com/interviews-publications-about-heritage/]
In hindsight, I was so impressed with the way the library world handles collaboration, documentation practices, and standards that I almost went on, while I was working at the Smithsonian, to get a degree in library science, because obviously, librarians have been successful in building an infrastructure that works. The art history community, as evident in the early days of the Getty, had difficulty accepting the collaborative methodology of the library community. And the standards the library community developed were not applicable to works of art. The Library of Congress subject heading list, wouldn’t help the fellows and scholars at SAAM find the images they were seeking.
And the art historians kept saying, “Well, you know, works of art are quite different from books.” “We don’t want authorities that limit how we describe a work of art” There were difficult dialogues going on at the time between the library community and the art historians. The Getty convened many dialogues. Nevertheless, I admired librarians openness toward collaboration. Hence my interest in using the Getty to produce standards that were open to collaboration.
[Marty]: Absolutely, I was just gonna jump in and say the I mean the vision that you’re articulating here is really I think the key thing. And I teach a graduate class on Museum Informatics here in the library school at FSU, and we talk about these, you know, the competing standards and systems in libraries and museums, but I always try to bring the students back to that shared vision of providing access to information seamlessly that that you’ve been at the lead of for so long.
Yes, well I think we’re at that point now, if only we could get some more museums to commit to something like linked data, you know, it could be done. I feel we missed a big opportunity this past year with so many museums closed. I thought, “Gee, this would have been a wonderful opportunity to underscore the value of linked open data”. I mean, in one sense, technology has kept museums alive during COVID, because more and more of them started to use outreach, social media, and their website to try to keep the community interested in their museum. It could have been a wonderful opportunity to be able to provide access across multiple museums, you know, to make that an even richer experience and tell new stories, and explore new ways of accessing the information.
[Jones]: If only we had been ready for that, Eleanor.
[Jones]: I wanted to just jump in and ask you to talk a little bit about, about that. You know, you did so much, and your vision was so great, I mean it, truly, for all the projects that were launched through the Getty Information Institute. They were so forward thinking, like AKA and also the sponsorship of NINCH and other organizations [like] MCN to try to keep change happening, but then, when the reorganization happened, it just was like going into the dark ages.
Yeah well, of course, one can’t do much about what happened at the Getty with the closure of GII and the Education Institute. It came right at the time when Harold Williams stated he thought GII had become a leader in the field. I would say, in many respects, it was a lack of understanding among the trustees of what the true value of the Getty Information Institute was. And in one sense, — I don’t know if I should even go into this — it was ironic to me that after the Getty got involved in some heated debates about antiquities in its collection being looted – and in the end documentation proved they were looted and many pieces had to be returned. So, the value of documentation sealed the Getty’s fate. Lawyers representing Italy had been conducting research going through documents at the Getty and also documents belonging to the dealers who sold the pieces to the Getty. The lawyers found an archive of photographs stored in a warehouse located at Zurich airport. The photographs showed that many of the pieces in question had come from Italy. In the end, the Getty spent millions on legal fees and had to return the pieces. So, documentation is important, and can be invaluable.
[Jones]: So, let’s talk about Object ID in that category of things too, because if that hadn’t been launched by the Getty, and, through your work and Robin’s work, then I think we would even have a harder time tracing antiquities or stolen art.
Yes. What gave me the idea to do Object ID was a visit while I was in Washington, D.C. at the FBI/Interpol headquarters. They share an office here in Washington, D.C. And at that very moment while I was there, a report came in about a work of art that had been stolen from a museum in the Netherlands. I was excited that this could happen while I was there, and I asked, “What are the next steps?”
The person who I was seeing said, “Well, first we have to translate the report, and it’s 15 pages long, it’s the curatorial record or the official record from the museum.” And I thought, Wait a minute, by the time this information is circulated to police worldwide, the thief could easily transport the stolen item across borders. Also, a 15 page report is not going to help a law enforcement officer like a customs official determine if something in front of him is the item described on 15 pages. What is needed is a very simple and precise description to easily identify the item and not a 15-page certificate that you have to leaf through, you know, and figure out if this is the same.
So, the goal was simple identification. What is the essential information that uniquely describes a piece of cultural property that the police or customs officials could use? That was the impetus.
And then of course, came the challenge of building trust and getting key organizations involved. This is not something the Getty [museum] could have done. I mean, the Getty was very — how should I say this? — disliked by a lot of large, cultural organizations back at that time. One of the reasons being that they didn’t want to divulge the name of the art dealer that sold antiquities to them. They were one of the museums that wanted to keep the names of art dealers confidential, and UNESCO was and is dead against that. UNESCO wanted art dealers’ names to be revealed. So UNESCO had no love for the Getty back in those days, either.
So, one of the first things I had to do is explain to everyone “I’m not with the Getty Museum. I’m with the Art History Information Program, or later called the Getty Information Institute.”
I first went to ICOM, then I went to UNESCO, then I went to the Council of Europe, then I went to Interpol, then I went to the United States Information Agency, and this is long before Robin Thorns came on the scene, and then to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. I convened a meeting in Paris of those organizations. It was a three day meeting. It was very difficult to get them to agree, because they competed with each other. ICOM said, “we’re handling looting and theft .” And the Council of Europe said, “We’re handling looting and theft.” And so forth.
So, finally, I said, “Don’t you realize this is much bigger than any one organization? We really need to band together to solve this problem. It’s huge, and da da da.” So, they finally agreed to form an alliance, and that was the first step. Some months later, I hired Robin Thorns to help figure out how to do a survey. We sent surveys out to 32 countries to say, “Tell us how you document and send us that information.” And then, out of that came an analysis that said, “Okay, out of these hundreds of ways of documenting, everyone has agreed on all of these categories. These 12 categories are the same across all these different methods of documentation.”
And that slowly became Object ID. That was what we could draw a circle around and say, this is the essential information that’s needed. And, of course, most people don’t know this because I’ve stayed on top of what’s been happening with Object ID, It’s the core of the Interpol database and Carabinieri database in Italy — I visited them to talk to them. Both use the ObjectID template for their art theft databases. ObjectID is also the core of the Art Loss Register, and the U.S. Army handbook on reported endangered cultural heritage — so that when they go into areas where there is destruction of cultural property, they use Object ID to do reports. And it’s also used by ICE, Immigration And Customs (Enforcement). It’s really gone very far. Although it has been very successful, it’s bothers me that the police databases still do not talk to each other, even though they may be using Object ID which is like a step in the right direction. I would like to see the police share information so their databases can be interconnected. To me, they should be sharing data, because if you want to be able to rapidly report a stolen cultural object, it would be much more efficient if they could seamlessly share the data. They could use Linked Data but restrict access to just police. It’s something I’ve been also trying to accomplish [through talks at conferences – particularly the EuroMed Conference on Digital Cultural Heritage where I have convened several panels to discuss it].
Object ID as well as CDWA Categories for the Description of Works of Art have been very useful throughout the cultural heritage community. I initiated CDWA before ObjectID by obtaining a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to convene art scholars over a three year period to identify essential information for describing works of art for research purposes. We worked in partnership with the College Art Association of America to identify the art experts. The results almost did not get published when I was promoted to become director of AHIP/GII because of I had too many things on my plate. Then fortunately, two of my staff -Murtha Baca and I think Patricia Harpring was the other key person, came to me asking if I wanted them publish the results of the project. They had not been involved in the three year discussions, but knew enough about art documentation to take the results and publish them, which you know, has been very useful to a lot of people.
So. What else can I say?
[Jones]: Say a little bit about NINCH and putting…
Oh yeah. Well, you know, we all were pioneers in the early days trying to figure out and come up with recommendations to create documentation standards, but when the Internet came into being — I was at the Getty — it all started moving very fast and, as you may recall the Clinton administration took a keen interest in the Internet, especially Al Gore, and there was all this talk about the Information Superhighway.
And when they [the Federal Government] talked about it, they didn’t seem to understand it was not just about libraries or how it might affect the broader humanities and museum community. They kept using the term libraries. Sure, I mean that was logical, but there are also museums and they’re different as we said a while ago, and have slightly different needs. So, AHIP, the Art History Information Program tried to step in at that time, and help the administration understand that they should also use the word “museum” when they talk about the Information Superhighway. [AHIP in collaboration with the American Council for Learned Societies and the Coalition for Networked Information produced a white paper in 1994 titled Humanities and the Arts on Information Highways.]
That effort in itself went on to the thought, “Well, we probably should have a presence in Washington, D.C., where policies are made, and that would be important.” That led to NINCH, the National Initiative for Networked Cultural Heritage, to be able to stay on top of discussions that were going on in Washington, D.C, about the Internet, and to inform others that this was happening, and also to inform the people who create policy what the needs are of the cultural heritage and museum communities.
And there was also CIMI, I don’t know if you remember CIMI, Computer Interchange for Museum Information, that was another one we launched in partnership with RLG and the Canadian Heritage Information Network. NINCH was a collaboration with [the American Council for Learned Societies and the Coalition for Networked Information]. In other words, we… it wasn’t the Getty alone that that launched NINCH and CIMI, it was a collaboration with other key organizations that resulted in being able to accomplish things. And so again, the idea of working with other organizations, I think is very essential, is an essential way to do these things, rather than just one institution.
And that was really what was so exciting about working at the Getty. If there was a problem to be solved, you could bring together the best people and have a discussion and try to solve that problem. You know, there are few organizations that can do that. I mean, when I worked at the Smithsonian, people came to see me even from other countries to find out what we were doing at the Smithsonian, and they sometimes were a little bit disappointed because we were prestigious and we were important, but the Smithsonian has limited resources. The Getty, on the other hand, had the resources to be able to convene and be a leader if they wanted to.
[Jones]: Eleanor, you did that, and you had these amazing convenings that would bring people like Stewart Brand and others, or at least work to the field of museums, so that we could think very differently about our approach.
Right. It was such an exciting time. And you know, the very fact that the Getty Information Institute was shuttered, so to speak, is typical, I think of the lack of understanding. Of course, we had briefings with the trustees. We were all directors of the different institutes or in the case of Walsh two museums. Each of us had separate budgets and leadership activities. We met with the trustees every month to inform them about our activities. But there was so much going on before the opening of the Getty Center, and so many cost overruns that I think that even though I had briefed them on Object ID, at one point — and I remember Bob Urburu, [Head of the Trustees and CEO of the Times Mirror Corporation] being very taken by my presentation. In fact, when I gave my pitch on Object ID and its importance, I was asked right after that if I wanted to continue permanently as director of GII – I was acting at the time. The problem is that although I briefed the trustees on several occasions on GII leadership role, they tended to forget!
The trustees main interest was always the museum and its collecting. They didn’t seem to appreciate how many organizations and institutions around the world counted on what we produced. GII’s circle of supporters didn’t come to the Getty Center. [They were invisible to the trustees.]
[Jones]: …and depended on it!
And depended on it. Exactly! Right? Right. Yeah.
[Marty]: I was just going to jump in and say I mean, yes.
I think that’s … Sorry? Go ahead. No..
[Marty]: I was just gonna say, you mentioned CIMI, and it reminded me that at the at the time, CIMI had the best guide to museums using the Dublin Core, right? And you think about these problems of bridging different metadata standards between different organizations, and all the hard work that went into that. I mean, I gotta think we’re seeing the payoff for it now, right, as we move forward, but boy, that’s a lot of hard work in the past.
[Jones]: If we can remember it, and Z39.50 and all of that, you know.
[Marty]: That’s right.
[Jones]: Eleanor, one thing that we’re trying to do through the project, though, is to provide the, let’s call it… I don’t know what to call it, but the… to stop the cycles of forgetfulness is, which is what I call what happens when people leave, or there’s no documentation or whatever, but by doing the oral histories, we think that we can put that… the memory back together for the whole field, from the very beginning.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s important work – especially as those around the circle of activity retire and history is rewritten. For example, when you think of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, it’s had different directors, and key people. Now, up until last year, Rachel Allen, who, you know, was a President of the Museum Computer Network has retired. And with that loss an era could be forgotten. Pretty soon there will not be any left back from my time. I hired Rachel many years ago. She was my deputy. So she knows my history as I know much of hers.
[Jones]: Yes, but I can reach her on Facebook if we need to get her.
Right, but what I’m saying is people retire and it’s easy to forget.
I was talking to someone, the other day about all the national research databases at the museum and some people just didn’t know about them, how they came about, or the history of the Juley collection and how the preservation project came about. I had gone to a conference in the U.K. and met Nancy Englander there, who was one of the key people that created the Getty Center for the History of Art in the Humanities, and in particular, the Art History Information Program before they hired Michael Esther, who became the director.
I wrote to her later when I got back home and said, we were discussing — when we were both at the Witt [Library], of the Courtauld Institute of Art (where the conference was held) — the importance of photographic documentation. I have this Peter A. Juley & Son Collection that documents works of art lost, stolen, altered, etc. — I later organized an exhibition on the Juley collection and the importance of photographs in research. — Many are deteriorating because of nitrate and we are losing them. We need to set up a preservation project in order to preserve the collection, which would include a rapid index. Because I catalogued the first one thousand negatives myself, I noticed that boxes of the Juley negatives had notations like “Lyme, Gloucester, Woodstock” written in the margins, and these were photographs taken at those artists colonies by the Juleys and I wanted to capture all of that, when I designed the computer index to the Juley collection. I discovered a whole group from Woodstock that I included in the exhibition. They were rare and unknown photographs of Hervey White, sitting with the Woodstock Mavericks. It took me a while to identify the people (the mavericks). I had written to Eugenie Gershoy, an old Woodstock artist, and sent her copies from the Juley collection, and she said, “Oh my gosh, all my old friends, most of them now departed.” I explained the value to Nancy, and as a result, the Getty agreed to purchase one print of every negative in the Juley collection, and Nancy said, “Name your price.” And for 10 years, the Smithsonian sent the Getty one print, because that’s how long it took to make a print of each negative following archival procedures, and making a copy of the nitrate negatives
So, I’m not sure what else we were talking about, but I know, Kathy, how… how did you phrase that question?
[Jones]: Not even sure. We’ll have to…
[Marty]: I know, it’s great. We’re just jumping around. So many different important…
…people remembering, right! But who remembers that? You know, even what I just shared with you, how the all the money for the preservation project, for the Juley collection came about, and the activities of the Getty Information Institute. How that all came about. The only person left at the Getty who might know is Patricia Harpring. Joe Shubitowski, Murtha Baca, and Joan Cobb, all people I hired have retired. Pretty soon, there’ll be very few left who know or will recall some of this.
So I’m glad you’re doing this.. It’s important.
[Marty]: We talked last week with David Bridge at the Smithsonian, getting some of his memories.
Mmm hmm, right.
[Jones]: Eleanor, one quick story that I always thought was sort of ironic, was what happened when we were in Amsterdam at the launch of Object ID, and the Getty… your group had been helping museums in the, in the Congo to do their cataloging, and while we were there, maybe even while we were having drinks one night, we heard that war had broken out yet again and all the museums were being looted, and so I thought, “How ironic. Here we are with Object ID and that’ll be the only way, if possible, to trace it.”
Yeah, yeah. A lot of that was again in terms of the importance of partnerships, it was the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam that had a lot of connections to different African countries from the colonial days, and they promoted Object ID in those places.
Yeah, yeah. How ironic indeed.
[Jones]: But so important to make that happen. So, we probably need to end soon, but it’s just so great to hear your stories, and to let us kind of celebrate all the great work that you did, and the vision that you had for this work, so don’t stop.
Oh, thank you! You know, it really is a synergy that comes about by being active in organizations like the Museum Computer Network and, of course, once I got to the Getty, and the flexibility to be able to meet and convene people to discuss these things. That’s what seeds vision, so I see it as something that the community has helped shape in my mind, so to speak, and I took some action on it, if you will, but it is a synergy.