When Co-Directors of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art Frank and Anne Goodyear took office in 2013, they set the goal to make available an image for every object in the Museum’s collection. So far, they’ve made large strides in that direction, with definitive plans for the release of the first scholarly catalogue in December 2015 and the ongoing release of high resolution images on the website.

The Museum is looking to meld the old and the new as they begin the process of digitizing their collections. They are currently focused on what will be the first electronic scholarly catalogue to come from an academic museum. With high quality photos of their collection, expanded references, data and links, the Museum aims to provide access to scholars and art enthusiasts alike. 

“We know that museums flourish when they are loved by their communities,” Anne Goodyear said. “And people can be most engaged with museums when they understand what they have to offer. In this day and age, as virtually all of us are online regularly. Digitization is becoming one of the key ways in which people can access information.” 
Developed in part by 2015 Samuel H. Kress Summer Research Fellow Sarah Cantor, the catalogue will focus on a collection of 140 drawings endowed by James Bowdoin III in 1811. 
By offering images of these drawings in a high resolution format, the Museum hopes to make available more detail and information in the photos, such as inscriptions, a bibliography and exhibition history. 

“We’re trying to strike a balance between making a catalogue great for drawing scholars, people interested in collecting, the general public and for students,” Cantor said. “So far, Bowdoin is at the forefront.” 

David Francis, the senior interactive developer for the Information Technology department, also contributed. The catalogue aims to cull information about these drawings, which haven’t been viewed in over thirty years, through the Museum’s information database. It’s not without technological challenges, however, especially as they strive to include maps, timelines, GPS coordinates and further references with each image.

The team behind this catalogue—with its high resolution photos, the ability to zoom, filter and search, as well as the sheer volume of images presented—hopes to change the way research is conducted at Bowdoin. 

“I think it will have a positive impact on research because you can bring to light a big collection that’s not easy to highlight non-digitally,” Francis said. “It goes out to other people who maybe want to do more research on it, get more funding and things like that.”

In addition to the catalogue, the Museum has begun to integrate their collection online for teaching and learning purposes through the use of Artstor, a scholarly digital art library, and the Google Art Project, a platform for the public to view high quality images of art collections. 
Through these programs, the Museum aims to reach a broader audience and provide a service for academia. 

“Our desire to digitize these collections reflects the ongoing interest of this institution,” said Anne Goodyear. “It reflects contemporary efforts, built on those of our predecessors, to make these collections as open and accessible as possible. One of the beauties of digitization is that it enables us to reach the entire world, whether you’re here in Brunswick or abroad.”