When the first batch of prints from the University of Alberta Museums and Collections Services’ A Little Bit of Infinity exhibition arrived at the Print Study Centre to be returned to their permanent storage locations, collections staff incorporated the application of barcodes to the matted and framed prints into their usual procedure for putting away objects.
The same 2”x1” polypropylene labels used for locations were also used to create object labels. Each label has the accession number, title, artist, and date of each artwork on it alongside a barcode.
The labels were carefully applied to the mat or permanent frame of each print in a place that would be readable but not directly contact the artwork.
For artworks with space on the mat, a barcode label was applied in the bottom right corner, away from the artwork itself.
For larger artwork without space on the mat, the label was applied to the mounting/framing corner at the bottom right. Again, care was taken to ensure it was not in contact with the work.
Here the label is applied to the frame of the artwork (in this case, a fan) where it can be easily found by staff but does not contact the piece itself.
For unmatted prints, a report with each artwork in the exhibition and a corresponding barcode was generated using Crystal Reports so that they could be scanned with Axiell Move. The “Home Location” (permanent storage location) was also added to this report so that staff would know where the object was to be returned to without having to search for each individual piece on the database. Pre-existing inventory sheets (also created with Crystal Reports) that are stored with the prints in each box at the Print Study Centre have had a barcode added to them. This way, any unmatted prints will still have a barcode physically associated with them.
With these location and object barcodes in place, the team was able to begin scanning with the Axiell Move application to update the locations of the exhibited artworks. They agreed that it significantly reduced the amount of time they spent updating the locations for each piece, streamlining the return process.
The University of Alberta Print Study Centre is an interactive facility for teaching, research and community outreach as well as an open access storage facility for the University of Alberta Art Collection’s prints and drawings.
The University of Alberta Museums and Collections Services recently put on a two-part exhibition titled A Little Bit of Infinity which included approximately 400 prints, many of which were from this storage location, which needed to be returned at the end of each part of the show. For this reason, it was decided that this location would be a good place to start the physical barcoding of locations and objects. This would help facilitate the return of exhibited prints and reduce the time spent by staff in the Art Collection on updating locations.
First, the team had to decide the best way to attach the barcodes to each location. As this is a space that often sees visitors, it was decided that any barcoding should be subtle, clean, and uniform.
There were six storage scenarios that would need to be addressed:
- Metal drawers containing matted and unmatted prints
- Wooden drawers containing matted and unmatted prints
- A rack unit with hanging framed works
- A glass-topped table with recessed spaces to display works
- Framed works hanging on walls around the centre
- Boxes shelved in wooden cabinets containing matted and unmatted prints
The first three scenarios were addressed similarly—2”x1” polypropylene labels were generated with a location name (e.g. Print Study Centre: Cabinet X, Drawer Y) and a corresponding scannable barcode. The labels for the metal drawers were attached to magnetic strips, which then could be placed alongside the original label without leaving a mark and remaining adjustable. To avoid leaving a sticky residue on the front of the drawers, barcode labels for the wooden drawers were adhered inside the drawers in an easily accessible and visible spot. The rack units, with their similarly wooden fronts, had the barcode labels attached on the inside of the unit where they are visible and accessible for staff, but not visitors.
For the glass-topped table and the room’s walls, a standard sheet of paper was printed with barcodes for each corresponding location and put in a plastic sheet protector. This way, the barcodes can be stored in a discreet location for staff.
The final storage scenario, the boxes stored in custom wooden cabinets, posed a problem. The lips of the shelves were not wide enough to accommodate a barcode, and attaching location barcodes to the boxes housing the prints would not be a good solution as a box being moved would take the shelf’s barcode with it.
We decided that the boxes would be converted to containers in the database (a process we previously addressed in Post #7), which would allow us to virtually ‘move’ the groups of prints more easily. A report (generated, like our labels, through Crystal Reports) was created which would allow locations and associated barcodes to be printed out, then stored centrally for staff to access when objects were being moved in and out of the cabinets.
These barcodes were put in place in time for the Art Collection’s staff members to begin returning the prints from the first portion of the A Little Bit of Infinity to storage, when the first art objects had their barcodes applied. We will discuss this process in the next blog post.