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Catching up with Morgan

Published August 28, 2020

Morgan Hamilton is a Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate in the Department of Art Education who worked at MoFA this summer. Morgan digitized work in the Permanent Collection as part of a project funded by FSU’s Collaborative Collision program. 

Work station for scanning Permanent Collections works.

Hello again! My name is Morgan Hamilton, and I was lucky enough to serve as the Graduate Assistant for the Collaborative Collisions project at the FSU Museum of Fine Arts this summer. My role started with entering metadata about artworks in the MoFA collection and shifted to working with the artworks themselves. It has been really interesting to see the small and often outdated images on the file of artworks that range from the 1910s to the present. The Collaborative Collisions project focused on updating the information we have about the artworks in the collection and raising it to the standard of FSU Libraries and other artwork databases. The metadata on each piece includes title, artist, year, medium, and dimension, but also deeper categorizing information such as artist and medium codes used by The Getty and the Library of Congress.

My work in the collection was very interesting as I have never worked with a permanent collection before! My background as a fine artist, art handler, and curator gave me the skills I needed to handle the artworks with care and consideration as I moved them from the flat files to the scanning room. The scanner I used was limited to a 24 x 18-inch image, so I had to make multiple passes for the larger works on paper. That means one artwork would be four or sometimes six different image files that I would have to ‘stitch’ together in photoshop. As a media artist, my skills came into play again as I was able to match up the image files, normalize the color balance between them, and make sure the final image resembles the original artwork as closely as possible. Phew! It was a lot of work, but I had the time of my life doing it!

Once I finished the works on paper with the scanner, I started with the framed works. Since they could not lie flat on the scanner, I took pictures of them in the studio. This was also a tedious task; however, photography and video played prominently in my studio practice, and I was able to record these works accurately. I had to create a stand that would hold the artwork very straight and still, while still being portable and easy to fine-tune. Once the piece was hung, and in the proper position, I moved the lights at 45-degree angles to the work so that reflections would not show up on the glass, distorting the image. I then moved the camera to closely line up with the middle of the piece, then snap! In one instance, the large print was a wash of color, which was almost impossible to focus on. I crafted a solution where I stuck the lens cap of the camera, which read “Canon” in bold letters and focused on that before taking the picture.

For each work, I took several pictures using different shutter speeds; this is called bracketing, giving me more options to choose from when I get to the computer and see the image in fine detail. Some paintings were very dark and needed more light; some were light and needed more darkness. The first step was to run a lens curve correction so that the frame edges are straighter. Even the shape of the lens can change the final image of a flat surface! After that, I touched up any small glares and compared the color correction with the original work.

Once the files were created, edited, and organized, I made sure to go through the file names with a fine-tooth comb to ensure they align with the metadata. The files are ready for the MoFA Team to upload to the forthcoming website to make the collection the most accessible it’s ever been. Stay tuned with the Collaborative Collisions and see for yourself how beneficial a state-of-the-art collection management system is!

I want to thank Preston McLane, Meredith Lynn, Jean Young, Kelly Hendrickson, and Annie Booth for welcoming me to the MoFA family and helping me both on-site and virtually, and I definitely plan to work with MoFA again soon!