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Descriptive Terminology for Works of Art on Paper

Supported by an IMLS 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant

This project is intended to address the need for more accurate and consistent documentation of the materials and techniques used to create works of art on paper. No detailed guide for this currently exists. The guidelines presented in this publication are designed to provide conservators, curators, registrars, catalogers and others charged with describing prints and drawings with a step by step approach for describing all aspects of the manufacture of these works.

The project was prompted by several recurring issues: 1) how to effectively and consistently describe and communicate the materials used in works of art to other museum professionals and to the public, 2) how to facilitate the recording and subsequent use of materials information in museum collections information systems, and 3) how to refine descriptive language to contribute most effectively to the education and visual experience of the museum visitor. While these guidelines are primarily “addressed” to the conservator, they are intended to assist all professionals working in this subject area. One intended result is more accurate, and hence more meaningful, material descriptions through the use of consistent terminology, regardless of who generates and records the information. Conservators, curators and other users will bring different levels and types of knowledge and connoisseurship to the task, therefore an additional goal is to guide those with less experience, or perhaps less direct access to the physical works of art, in how to record information that is accurate regardless of level of detail.

It is hoped that the impact of the publication will be three-fold: 1) enhanced ability of conservators to communicate their knowledge about the materials of works of art on paper in a more accurate and consistent manner, 2) greater understanding through improved resources for allied museum professionals (catalogers, curators, etc.), and 3) increased visual and information literacy of the museum-going public.

Guidelines project staff/authorship

Nancy Ash, The Charles K. Williams, II, Senior Conservator of Works of Art on Paper
Scott Homolka, Associate Conservator of Works of Art on Paper
Stephanie Lussier, Project Conservator
Becca Pollak, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation
Eliza Spaulding, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation (2010-2013)
Reneé Wolcott, Editor

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