Thursday, June 11, 2009


A very thorough answer to our questions about Te Papa’s digitization program comes from Victoria Leachman, Rights Manager, on the Te Papa Blog. Who said things can’t change?

It appears that getting copyright clearance and then an image of an art work on the Te Papa online catalogue requires at least one of a number of triggers. They are:

· artworks and objects are acquired for the collection

· images are requested from Te Papa’s Picture Library or taken for Te Papa Press Publications

· artworks or objects are photographed before going on display or borrowed by other institutions

· audits of collection areas are conducted

· objects are digitised as part of the Collections Online programme.

That all makes perfect sense from a Rights Management point of view. Selection is largely driven by requests from staff based on the exhibition and publishing programmes of the institution.

And yet, this process doesn’t deal to the bigger issue we raised of Milan Mrkusich having one work included in the online catalogue of the 19 in the collection to Nigel Brown’s five included in the catalogue and counting. Where's the curatorial strategy in the triggers of the selection process? No Mrkusich exhibtion or publication requirements seem to equal no Mrkusich image on the database. The list of recently cleared copyright images doesn’t make you feel the priorities have been thought through: Philippa Blair, Claudia Pond Eyley, Michael Eaton, Helen Rockel, Henry Cliffe, Gordon H. Brown, Frederick Carter.

And that's really what this discussion is all about. As institutions get more digital they cannot control the traces of their processes and priorities revealed in their online presence. The more they let go their control, the more interesting it becomes for all of us. Let the wild rumpus begin!