2016 Digital Provenance Symposium

As part of the Art Tracks project and with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Carnegie Museum of Art hosted the 2016 Digital Provenance Symposium on October 14, 2016.

This event brought together provenance experts, art historians, and technologists to discuss the current work being done in digital provenance across the museum sector. Experts from LACMA, the University of Glasgow, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and others joined CMOA’s staff for a day of sharing, discussion, and planning for the future.

The Art Tracks team shared results from their ongoing research into digital provenance standards and debuted the shared model for provenance in Linked Data, developed in conjunction with the Art Tracks partner institutions. Jeff Smith from the Freer|Sackler] presented on their proposal for creating a federated search for Asian art provenance. Jane Milosch from the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI) gave a wonderful overview of the history of digital provenance research and the future of provenance education. Ruth Cuadra discussed the Getty Research Institute's current reboot of the Provenance Index using Linked Data, and Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass of the Yale Center for British Art gave a in-depth look at how YCBA is using Linked Data to represent provenance and the history of collecting.

One of the most exciting aspects of these presentations was the strong sense of cohesion between these very diverse projects. Each institution who presented at the symposium was committed to working with the others on a shared, community-wide model for representing the history of ownership and custody of art as Linked Open Data. The symposium reinforced the collaborative nature of these projects and renewed the field's commitment to interoperability.

The symposium concluded with a engaged discussion between all participants on future research and use cases for digital provenance. Facilitated by Alison Langmead, the Director of the Visual Media Workshop at the University of Pittsburgh, the conversation emphasized the varied ways that digital provenance could enhance a museum's ability to execute their mission through enhanced visitor engagement and more effective collection research.

We thank all the individuals and institutions who participated in making this event a success, and we look forward to hosting a second symposium in fall 2017 focused on the impact that digital provenance will have on the disciplines of art history and the history of collecting.

The initial announcement of the symposium is preserved here as a PDF.

Videos of the Talks

Louise Lippincott, Curator of Fine Arts at Carnegie Museum of Art, discussed the origins of the Art Tracks project and its potential impact on the field of art history, as well as its impact on her curatorial practice at CMOA.

David Newbury, Lead Developer, Art Tracks at Carnegie Museum of Art, presented on the Art Tracks project, including the Elysa provenance management software and the Linked Open Data provenance standard.

Tracey Berg-Fulton, Collections Database Associate at Carnegie Museum of Art, introduced the Northbrook Initative, a proposed multi-institution collaborative Linked Open Data provenance project focused on the Northbrook collection.

Jane Milosch, the director of the Smithsonian’s Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI), a pan-institutional program to facilitate provenance research at the Smithsonian, in the Office of the Provost/Undersecretary for Museums and Research. She discussed SPRI's work with experts around the world to develop training opportunities, educational programs, joint research projects, and new technology to improve the sharing of provenance data among experts and the public, including a multi-year German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program that will launch in 2017, as well as a partnership with the University of Glasgow to create the first graduate studies program in provenance research, Art History: Collecting and Provenance in an International Context, starting fall 2016.

Jeffrey Smith, Assistant Registrar for Collections Information for the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, presented on the museum’s provenance work and the Asian Art Provenance Connections Project. The Freer|Sackler is planning a search interface for Asian art provenance linked data, with an initial focus on WWII-era provenance. The site will be designed primarily for researchers, and is intended to scale to include data from other museums with Asian collections. Jeff’s focus is on aligning the processes of research, data entry, and linking of archival and other knowledge resources to create linked data for the research and museum community.

Ruth Cuadra, Business Applications Administrator at the Getty Research Institute, discussed experiences encountered and lessons learned while remodeling the Getty Provenance Index databases for publication as Linked Open Data, including mapping auction sales catalogs to the CIDOC-CRM, developing a URI scheme, and reconciling these resources with the Getty vocabularies.

Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass, Collections Data Manager at Yale Center for British Art presented on YCBA's current work on provenance and the CIDOC-CRM.

About Art Tracks

Art Tracks is about discovering and recording connections between works of art and people, places, and events through history. This ambitious project strives to standardize, digitize, and convert the provenance of works of art into structured, Linked Open Data. Starting in 2013, Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) began to build a suite of open source software tools to transform traditional written provenance records into searchable data, with an emphasis on existing data standards and a strong focus on building tools that are useful across multiple institutions. Art Tracks has the potential to influence humanities and museum scholarship by revealing unsuspected narratives within the histories of art and museums.

About Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art enriches people’s lives through art. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Our core activities—collecting, conserving, presenting, and interpreting works of art—make those experiences possible. Our world-class collection of over 30,000 works emphasizes art, architecture, photography, and design from the 19th century to the present. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. Learn more at cmoa.org.