Art and Artifact Collections Database makes its debut

The Special Collections departments at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges are excited to announce the launch of the new Art and Artifact Collections Database, now available to the Tri-College community at

Please note that this resource is currently only available to the Tri-College community either on-campus or via off-campus access through your library’s website.


Art and Artifact Collections Homepage

Art and Artifact Collections Database Homepage


The database includes over 20,000 archaeology, anthropology, and fine art objects from Bryn Mawr’s collections and several hundred from Haverford’s collections. This multifaceted web site makes possible for the first time access to the colleges’ rich teaching collections for use in classes, for individual research, or for simple enjoyment. Students, faculty, and staff at the Tri-Colleges can now search the collections by artist, subject, culture, geographic region, time period, object type, and many other entry points. Or, users can browse highlighted parts of the collection to learn about the diverse holdings of art and artifacts from around the world.

Special Collections staff and students at both institutions have been working for the past eighteen months on data migration and cleanup, object cataloging, and imaging. To date, over half of the objects in the database have images and the majority have at minimum a basic level of cataloging. The original impetus to harmonize and expand the old, piecemeal databases came from the Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art, which provided the funding for the initial stages. “Since training in material culture and curatorial practice is a key part of the Graduate Group’s work, it made sense to direct funds towards making the Art and Artifacts Collections more generally known and available,” says Catherine Conybeare, the Director of the Graduate Group. “This project has been managed with extraordinary speed and efficiency, and the whole Special Collections team deserves our hearty thanks.”


Screenshot of a selection of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology Featured Collections from Bryn Mawr College

Screenshot of a selection of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology Featured Collections from Bryn Mawr College


Cheryl Klimaszewski came on board as Collections Information Manager at Bryn Mawr in February of 2009 to oversee the transition of the old database records to a new collections management system and to develop the web interface. “It is so rewarding to see the results of everyone’s hard work come to fruition,” she says of the online version of the database. “So many students have been working on this—from cataloging to imaging—they should all be very proud. Plus, it’s a really terrific learning experience, since the skills students learn by cataloging and imaging our collections are transferrable to any museum, library, or archive anywhere.”

The biggest benefit of the database will be the increased awareness of these resources on all the Tri-College campuses. “The Art and Artifacts Database is a huge step forward for Bryn Mawr and Haverford. A great deal of work has gone on behind the scenes to make this possible. Now students and faculty can know more fully the tremendous resources that are available for them to study. We hope this will lead to greater use of our material objects on both campuses,” says John Anderies, Head of Special Collections at Haverford College. Eric Pumroy, Director of Library Collections and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections at Bryn Mawr, agrees: “Our extraordinary collections of art and artifacts have been hidden for far too long. This database finally makes it possible for students and faculty to explore the collections in a systematic way, and should lead to exciting new opportunities for teaching and research.”


The Advanced Search screen

The Advanced Search screen


For more information about the
Art and Artifact Collections database contact:

Cheryl Klimaszewski, Digital Collections Specialist

To see the collections in person, contact:

Brian Wallace, Curator/Academic Liaison for Art and Artifacts


Marianne Weldon, Collections Manager

25,300 and counting . . .

The 5,000 records that have been added since June include pottery sherds, photographs, prints, and drawings, among other objects.

The 5,000 records that have been added since June include pottery sherds, photographs, prints, and drawings, among other objects.

The Art and Artifact collections staff members often become so wrapped up in working with the collections management database that it becomes difficult to make time for an update on our progress. Intensive and time-consuming work continues not only on cataloguing individual objects but also on cleaning up and standardizing large volumes of data. Most notably, Classics graduate student Diane Amoroso-O’Connor is working as the Collections Information Management Intern for the 2009-2010 academic year and has joined us in our quest for better quality data. Diane’s projects so far have ranged from cataloging coins and Predynastic Egyptian objects to standardizing titles, dimensions, and geographic data across collections.

A more completely cataloged Predynastic Egyptian vase, a gift from the American Exploration Society.

A more completely cataloged Predynastic Egyptian vase, a gift from the American Exploration Society.

History of Art graduate student Carrie Robbins, working as the Graduate Assistant in Collections, has also been busy cataloging the photography collection, while Archaeology graduate student Holly Pritchett is working with Professor Jim Wright on accessioning, cataloging, and photographing sherds excavated at Gözlükule, Tarsus, Turkey. All this, of course, is in addition to the great team of undergraduate students who continue to inventory, photograph, and catalog collections objects. This semester, those students include Laura Kelly-Bowditch, Michelle Crepeau , Kristen Grubbs, Annette Hansen, Nancy Muntz, Moira Nadal, Jessica Nelson, and Jennifer Wright.

A cataloged sherd from Tarsus, Turkey.

A cataloged sherd from Tarsus, Turkey.

Examples of prints and drawings from the John N. Estabrook Collection catalogued this summer by Amy Haavik-MacKinnon and Tienfong Ho, both of whom spoke about their work with collections at the Graduate Group talk on November 17th.

Examples of prints and drawings from the John N. Estabrook Collection catalogued this summer by Amy Haavik-MacKinnon and Tienfong Ho, both of whom spoke about their work with collections at the Graduate Group talk on November 17th.

EmbARK is here

We are happy to report that the server housing EmbARK Collections Manager has been configured and the software has been installed for key users. Collections staff have begun working with the new system on an experimental basis. After several discussions with our EmbARK user support representative, we have also outlined a plan for data migration. The initial phase of data migration should begin in about two weeks, which means that we will have some amount of “real” data in the system in time for our on-site training, which will take place May 4 and 5 on the BMC campus. The training will be attended by staff members from Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges, along with graduate and undergraduate student employees and interns working with the collections.

Over the next month or so, we will also be meeting with faculty members by department in order to set priorities for developing the database. Faculty assistance will be essential in helping us to identify those collections and objects for which faculty would like to see complete and accurate records (including images) in the database. Though we have been and will continue to “clean up” data in preparation for its move to the new system, this task has so far focused on removing redundant information and generally standardizing existing records on the most general level. Breaking down the collection into smaller, more manageable “chunks” will allow us to create and review object records in detail with the assistance of faculty, staff, and knowledgeable graduate students. As these groups of records are reviewed and finalized, we can begin to turn our attention to our ultimate goal of making this database available to the greater BMC community and, in the long term, to the general public. To this end, faculty assistance is essential in identifying the key objects and parts of the collection upon which to focus our efforts so the collections database can become an accurate and useful research tool for the Tri-College community.

Collections management takes a bold step forward, at last . . .

The creation of a comprehensive collections database for Bryn Mawr College’s Art and Artifacts Collections is underway. This extensive, 18-month project is generously funded by the College’s Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics and History of Art. For the duration of the project, Collections Information Manager Cheryl Klimaszewski (on board as of February 16th) will be assisting collections staff members Emily Croll (Curator and Academic Liaison) and Marianne Weldon (Collections Manager) in the seemingly impossible task of taking 22,000+ records from fourteen different MS Access databases, cleaning them up, and then moving them ever-so-lovingly into EmbARK Collections Manager, a collections information system developed by Gallery Systems. All this, mind you, while also beginning data entry for the additional 40,000 collections objects yet to be cataloged.

A screen snapshot from the EmbARK Collections Manager sample database.

A screen snapshot from the EmbARK Collections Manager demo database.

This project represents a giant leap forward for the Art and Artifacts Collections. Systems like EmbARK are the way to store information about a collection because they employ relational database technology, which provides structured storage, management, and manipulation of data and allows users to interact with data more effectively. Each record in the database acts as a surrogate for the actual item in the collection, so searching the database means (or in our case, will eventually mean) that users have the collection at their fingertips via the database interface.

The creation of digital images of items in the collection is an essential and ongoing part of this project. To date, over 5000 digital images have been created. Students will continue to photograph objects and to digitize existing photographs and negatives.

An important component of our project is the development of data standards, which will govern how collections data is entered into the system going forward. For instance, will we classify “watercolors” as “paintings” or “works on paper”? This is but one simple example of the types of decisions that must be made as to how we conceptualize our collection, and we plan to make such decisions in consultation with members of the BMC community, as appropriate. Such an effort now will pay off in the end: codifying data standards means that data is entered into the database in an orderly, regular, predictable fashion, which will allow for more efficient and meaningful search capabilities once the collection is available on-line. In addition, the standards we develop at BMC will be based on broader museum standards and best practices. This means that, going forward, our data will be more easily adapted as the broader standards continue to develop and improve, opening up the possibility of collaboration between institutions. The bottom line: spending the time to develop strong data standards now will make the collections more accessible to all users and we will never have to tackle a collections data project on this scale again (well, at least not in our lifetimes).

The desktop of a collections information manager, on a good day.

Reviewing current collections data.

So how does one approach such a monumental task? Cheryl has spent her first two weeks reviewing the current databases to learn the answer to the age old question, “What is really going on here?” Multiple Excel spreadsheets now contain composite lists of field names and properties (i.e. how the data in the fields is structured) that have been reviewed and revised to create one master list of field names. This master list will be used to create a final MS Access database into which all the existing records will be merged for further review.

Our to-do list for next week:

  • Complete the data merge to the new master Access database.
  • Begin review the data as a whole to determine data development priorities for core fields.
  • Begin development of data standards for the core fields.
  • Begin data cleanup according to those standards, allowing the computer, where possible to do the “heavy lifting” in cleaning up data.