Digital condition reporting: Articheck at the Portland Art Museum

This week, we have a guest blog post from Annika Erikson, Founder & CEO of Articheck, who spoke at the Collections Trust’s conference in September. Articheck logo Annika interviews Amanda Kohn from the Portland Art Museum in the US about their use of Articheck to make digital condition reports for exhibitions and loans.

You can email if you’d like to learn more about digital condition reporting with Articheck.

Amanda Kohn: The Portland Art Museum, with a collection of 42,000 objects, is one of the leading cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest. Our Collections Department consists of 3 registrars, 1 collections manager, 1 conservator (all of which do condition reports), and 5 preparators.  Our exhibitions are varied, covering ancient to contemporary times; design exhibitions including architecture, cars, and fashion; and performance art and video installations.  The number of lenders we have can vary greatly as well, from permanent collection exhibitions with no lenders, to collector exhibitions that have included 75+ lenders.  Exhibitions can have one object to a few hundred.

Annika Erikson: What do you use Articheck for? (Loans, Acquisitions, touring exhibitions, surveys, digitisation projects, etc.)

Portland Art Museum Registrar, Ann Eichelberg, using Articheck for the first time to report on an incoming Giacometti bronze loan.

AK: This last year was the first time we’ve used Articheck.  As a trial run, our head of collections agreed to a low level subscription used strictly for exhibition loans.  As I used Articheck more and more through the year, the other condition reporters in our department tried it out.  We just got an unlimited plan for 2017 to use for all condition reporting – incoming and outgoing loans, conservation reports, new acquisitions and exhibitions.

AE: What is your Articheck workflow like? Do you import CSV details from your collections management system (CMS) onto the web portal first?

AK: So far, since I’ve been the only person in the department regularly using Articheck, we haven’t explored importing CSV details from our CMS.  In the next year, with the unlimited plan, we will definitely be doing this as it’s not uncommon for us to be given large gift groups and bequests.  This will save us a lot of time!

Updates are made as needed through the run of the exhibition.  If I’m lucky and no incidents have happened to bring condition into question, then there is only the incoming report for each object.  When I have had to make updates, it has been very easy.  These exhibition related reports are sometimes shared with lenders if they’re interested.

AE: Can you tell me about a specific project? How did it go, and what were the main benefits of using Articheck – did you save a lot of time, or standardise your approach, or just produce better/clearer reports?

AK: A specific project that comes right to mind was Josh Kline. The exhibition consisted of 5 lenders and about 30 contemporary objects made from various media, including 3-D printed objects, TVs with lightbox frames, “Teletubby” mannequins, and plastic sculptures.  There were no typical materials used and so many components for each object.  Only one lender provided conditions reports, so I was starting from scratch for most, and the artist was onsite for the entirety of the installation handling the objects and directing our team.

A page from a digital condition report of an Amanda Wojick sculpture in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum.

Articheck was indispensable for this installation. Having the reports prepared before we began, I was able to switch between reports easily as the artist moved from crate to crate.  Not only was it a complicated installation, but we were in the furthest gallery from my office – about a 10 minute walk.  Either I wouldn’t have had marked photographs for the condition reports, or it would’ve taken me so much more time to take, print and mark with each new object unpacked.

What’s great about having the condition report templates is that it reminds you what to look for.  I feel this has led me to have more consistently accurate reports.  Not once have I missed out on taking a picture to include with the report.  Having Articheck on an iPad with an excellent camera gives me no excuses to miss this important part of reporting.  Everyone I’ve shared a report with has been impressed.  I think the professional look of the final report can’t be denied.

AE: Thanks so much for your time and help Amanda!

AK: Happy to!



You can email or go to the Articheck website if you’d like to learn more about digital condition reporting with Articheck.