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Photographing the Prints

by Salena McKenzie


photography , Photo Services , digitization , prints , curatorial , IMLS , behind the scenes , Kristin Spangenberg , Salena McKenzie

As the Cincinnati Art Museum’s IMLS Imaging Technician, I’m often asked what my job entails. I was hired here with funding obtained from a grant given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant was given with the goal of inventorying and photographing the prints collection, linking these images to the museum’s database, and having these images accessible to online users in the future. My main responsibility is photographing and cataloging these prints.

A large handful of employees here play their part in the success of this project. It involves members of our Curatorial, Photographic Services, Registration, Conservation, and IT departments. Kristin Spangenberg – the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs –and her dedicated IMLS assistants have nearly inventoried the whole collection. Under the supervision of our Head of Photographic Services Department, I photograph the prints and catalog them. The images are then sent to our Registration team to successfully link them to their records. When the grant started in October 2012, the original goal was to inventory and photograph 8,000 prints in two years time. By that date, we had successfully photographed close to 11,000 images.

Thanks to the dedication of Kristin Spangenberg and the generous donations of those she approached for continuous funding after the grant ended, I’m still here photographing the prints, six months later. We’ve now photographed well over 12,000 prints, and not only will this project enable us to share images with the public in the future, but it also enhances the museum’s ability to work more efficiently by providing images for various projects. For example, the new Rosenthal Education Center that opened last month, was able to use images from our database that were photographed under the IMLS grant, to use in the space.

Although my position will most likely come to an end around April of this year, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and to do my part to share all that it has to offer. I’m often asked what my favorite pieces to photograph are, but being around such an amalgam of amazing artists, from various places and time periods, it’s hard for me to choose! Or, maybe it’s not that difficult.


cubist painting of black cats with yellow eyes