Student research: Morgan Davis on collections management

My involvement with the collection began as an honors contract for my 20th Century Art History course. My professor and I agreed that we didn’t want to go about this the normal way, i.e. write a paper and call it good, so we began discussing other options. After much consideration, we decided to incorporate my project into the class’s final paper, which entailed writing about a piece within the collection. In order for each student to select a piece of twentieth-century art from the collection, we had to know where everything was located—and that’s where my project came in. After we narrowed down a selection of about 50 potential artworks, I made a list of where the pieces were supposed to be and set out across campus to physically verify the locations.

Her work with the collection made Morgan a valuable contributor to early conversations about the future OSU Museum of Art. Here, she surveys art storage facilities.

The semester’s work led to my professor and me seeing many inconsistencies in the collection database which needed to be resolved, so my honors project was extended and my thesis was born. Professor Siddons and I worked on assimilating a very large donation of paintings into the collection as well as reworking the database and the paperwork. The project taught me a lot about what goes on behind the scenes with a large collection like the Gardiner Permanent Collection. As a studio art student and an art educator, this experience has been very beneficial to me in that it has made me realize how much work is required to allow a single piece to be shown or even stored. I couldn’t be happier with my honors thesis experience, and I hope that art students in the future will follow in my footsteps and consider something a little different for their theses.

Morgan Davis is a graduating senior who completed her Honors Thesis Project in 2010.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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2 Responses to Student research: Morgan Davis on collections management

  1. aaron says:

    I am very interested in OSU’s collection and the move downtown. Is there somewhere to see an updated list of what exactly is in the collection?

    • osucurator says:

      Hi Aaron,

      A static version of the collection database is available in the Visual Resources Library (Bartlett Center for the Visual Arts, Rm 106). It is an accurate list of the holdings of the Gardiner Permanent Art Collection, in the Art Department, as of 2008. My students have been using this database to begin the research and writing projects that are featured on this blog.

      There are a variety of art collections across campus, not only in the Art Department but in the Edmon Low Library, the College of Human Environmental Sciences, and elsewhere. It is our hope that the future museum will display work from all of these collections, but in most cases we’re still in the very early stages of those conversations, so we don’t really know what will happen.

      One thing we’ve been working on, with the help of several recent new staff additions, is developing the database and making it more publicly accessible. It is my personal hope that by the end of the Spring semester, we will have a web-based version of the database that students and members of the public can access from anywhere.

      Thanks for your interest!

      Louise.

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