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An Example of Usefulness of Digital Condition Reports

May 8, 2017

By Heidi Dawn, 2016 recipient of the Elisabeth Walton Potter Oregon Heritage Preservation Training Scholarship to participate in a summer internship in the Conservation Department at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Condition reports usually consist of text documents describing the general condition of an item held in a collection, and contain a diagram, drawing, or photograph of the piece with marks that highlight any damage or wear. They are essential for pieces that are part of a traveling exhibit, and they become part of the record and history of a piece. Using digital condition reports is an easy way to improve the accuracy and visual quality of condition reports. As software becomes more intuitive and accessible, creating and updating digital condition reports becomes the best choice for record keeping. Digital records can also be shared with many people simultaneously, directors, curators, registrars, and conservators at the same time without loss of image quality.

The Conservation Department at the Fowler Museum at UCLA has developed a simple and effective work flow for newly accessioned pieces that includes digital condition reports efficiently created from templates. The templates were created in Word and Photoshop. After templates are made, the process is simple. Images are set into the template and then brightly colored lines can be digitally drawn onto the image to note damage, imperfections, or wear. These lines can easily be hidden within the application to see the unmarked image of the object, in excellent quality, for close digital inspection. The accompanying image shows a digital condition report with imperfections noted.

Heidi Dawn internship

Yao basket, held in the Fowler collections.

The Fowler’s Conservation Department work flow is a checklist dictating a smooth process from creating a digital folder, moving to photographing the object, then completing the text condition report, and finally popping photographs of the object into the image templates. If no conservation treatments are needed, the digital record is complete.

This smooth process was shown to me during an internship in the Conservation Department at the Fowler Museum under conservator Christian de Brer. I entered the internship with a goal of learning efficient documentation of ethnographic objects. I am grateful for the excellent training by Mr. de Brer, in condition reporting and photographing ethnographic objects. My internship was supported by a generous Elisabeth Walton Potter Oregon Heritage Preservation Scholarship. The ability to travel to experts in the field of conservation for training in skills that I will implement in my work with Oregon’s cultural heritage is invaluable to me as a student of conservation.

The deadline for the next round of the EWP Oregon Heritage Preservation Training Scholarship is June 2, 2017. Be sure to submit an application if you would like to attend a workshop, training, or conference that would help you better preserve your community’s heritage.

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