Methods

Aim is to use the presentation of the data as a through line to research questions about the history of photography and cultural heritage institution collecting trends.

This project uses collection data from MoMA’s Github downloaded 7/16/19.  The data includes a Classification column and a Department column.  This project uses data in the department column.   The departments category was selected sincea core project aim is to explore the collecting decisions codified by the institutional emphasis on a department rather than a classification.  The department category was also selected to because interested in photographs as art, not necessarily as artifact of other categories Media and Performance department.  This will impact representation of more contemporary formats and artists found in the Media and Performance Department will hold more contemporary formats and artists,  will loose some representation of artists and mediums.

Data Cleaning: OpenRefine was used to clean and normalize the data.  This was first done with the Date Created column.

  1. Removing circa, ?, and months (1920s becomes 1920. c. 1880 becomes 1880)
  2. For items with date spans, the decision was made to use the most recent date, realizing that this will skew the data to more modern.  Spans consisting of more that a decade are evaluated on a case by case basis taking into account the medium and artist.  Example: 1910-14 because 1914.
    • 512 items: 1938-1960 “Unknown Photographer” Gelatin Silver Print, Gift of Peter J. Cohen, 5.1cm x 5.1cm, (see accession #133019 . Acquired in 2017.  Used 1960 as year created date.
  3. “Negative date 1944 because 1944.”  Making case by case determinations : *Is a photograph created when it is taken, developed, or printed?
  4. FundConstituentID 956, 2863 lists birth and death dates and photograph creation dates. 6419 lists creation after death.

Challenges:  Dates tend to be less precise or unknown for pre-1900 photographs.  In these instances some are given a range from the photographers birth and death dates, e.g. Most of Eugene’s Atget’s photographs are listed as 1925-1927.  Sizable amount listed at 1934-35 (printed 1947 by LECO Photo Services).  Multiple items with one entry e.g. “2 chromogenic prints, (1967, 1982).  Negative 1930, Distortion 1950: 4290.

Research Questions:

What emerges are patterns that prompt certain questions.

1. Are there certain photographic processes that produce works of particular dimensions?
2. Do contemporary formats (chromogenic prints, inkjet prints) exhibit more variety in height and width?
3. What are the collecting trends for particular photographic processes?
4. Does the museum prioritize collecting more contemporary formats over 19th or early 20th century processes?
5. How does collection development differ between gifts/donations and those purchased or acquired through funds?
6. When do donors begin named funds for collection development? Is this evidence of photography’s ascendancy as an art and through patronage or structured giving?
7. Are there collecting trends for particular photographers? Do bumps in collecting correspond to exhibits at MoMA?

Nothing acquired in 1958 (this was when the fire was?)

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