For the New York Times, Randy Kennedy writes about MoMA's initiative to digitize its exhibition archive and put it online. This comes as a great boon to researching curators and artists who don't have access to the institution's physical archive--though the cost of the initiative must have been steep. (To my knowledge, the only other institution to have done this is the New Museum.) Read Kennedy in partial below, in full via New York Times.
The Museum of Modern Art, which has defined Modernism more powerfully than perhaps any other institution, can often seem monolithic in the mind’s eye, essentially unchanged since its doors opened in 1929: a procession of solemn white-box galleries, an ice palace of formalism, the Kremlin (as the artist Martha Rosler once called it) of 20th-century art.
But a more complicated story has always been told by the hundreds of thousands of documents and photographs in the museum’s archives, a vast accumulation of historical detail that has been accessible mainly to scholars. Beginning Thursday, after years of planning and digitizing, much of that archive will now be available on the museum’s website, moma.org, searchable so that visitors can time-travel to see what the museum looked like during its first big show (“Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, van Gogh,” in the fall of 1929); during seminal exhibitions (Kynaston McShine’s “Information” show in 1970, one of the earliest surveys of Conceptual art); and during its moments of high-minded glamour (Audrey Hepburn, in 1957, admiring a Picasso with Alfred H. Barr Jr., the museum’s domineering first director).
Michelle Elligott, chief of the museum’s archives, who undertook the project with Fiona Romeo, the director of digital content and strategy, said that translating documents from the physical to the virtual yielded some real-world historical discoveries. Yes, as the museum has long suspected but could never quite say definitively, Picasso is the artist who has been included in the most exhibitions (more than 320).
*A view of the exhibition “Bauhaus: 1919-1928,” which was on view from Dec. 7, 1938, through Jan. 30, 1939. SOICHI SUNAMI, THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART ARCHIVES, NEW YORK