Longitudes

The Indianapolis Museum of Art's transparency initiatives

Part of our interest in the #OpenCurating research we are currently carrying out is to look at how museums and curatorial departments are engaging in new ways with their audiences and the means through which "open" initiatives are being promoted and implemented in exhibition-making and via other types of programming.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has created two really dynamic initiatives which promote transparency throughout the museum's operations: a real-time statistics "Dashboard" including data such as the museum's energy consumption, works of art currently on display, the value of the museum's endowment, their operating expenses, average time of visits to the website, etc. 

The tool was implemented in 2008 and is the brainchild of museum director Maxwell L. Anderson, an active advocate of implementing new media technologies to advance public interest in art. 



The data can be compared to previous years (stats for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011), filtered by museum departments (Buildings, Education, Conservation, Curatorial, Finance...) as well as by topics (Art, Greening the IMA, Attendance...). 


 Dashboard data of the curatorial.

However admirable this tool is, the curatorial dashboard falls rather short on the depth of information, only offering statistics for the "number of acquisitions" and the "number of works with gaps in WWII-Era Provenance". They do not reveal full data sets of their departmental operational budget, for instance. This might show there is still some resistance to really open up  to show other kind of costs (shipping, insurance, exhibition display, fees paid to artists (or not?)...) or even interesting insights such as (air)miles travelled by the curatorial staff, or the amount of paper used for their publications, just to mention a few. 

Some of these topics (how to articulate institutions and organisations complex needs in seeming transparent, responsible and benevolent) were addressed in Latitudes' 2008 exhibition "Greenwashing. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities" (Archive Books, 2008) and in its catalogue essay "Shades of Green: a conversation between the curators", as well as in the essay by Stephanie Smith "'Alas for the dreams of a Dreamer!': Art Museums and Sustainability" included in the Latitudes-edited publication "Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook' (RSA, 2006).

A second initiative we find quite relevant is the "Deaccessioning database", which classifies pieces that have been deaccessioned at the museum since 2007 (following IMA's policy, see pdf here), explaining provenance, the reasons for its deaccession, listing the recipient and the day of sale, etc.
 Deaccessioned Artworks page www.imamuseum.org/art/collections/deaccession

Take for instance "Houses in the Snow", a 1929 canvas by Maurice de Vlaminck sold via Sotheby's in 2009 for $173700; or the 1889 suite of prints "Les Misères Humaines" by Gaugin, which were transferred to the Musée de Pont-Aven in 2009. Fascinating and revealing, isn't it?


Deaccessioned file for Maurice de Vlaminck's 1929 canvas.




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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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2005—2020