Online Database Makes Bryn Mawr Collections Searchable

Posted March 3rd, 2011 at 2:56 pm.


Screenshot of the online Art and Artifact Collections Database

The Bryn Mawr campus community can use the Web to search for a book in the library with Tripod, search for a Bryn Mawr student with Virtual Bryn Mawr, and even search for available space for a meeting or event with the Virtual EMS calendar. Now, for the first time, community members can browse through the College’s art and artifact collections online as well.

Special Collections, which manages Bryn Mawr’s extensive holdings of art, artifacts, rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and historical records, is in the process of digitizing its Art and Artifact Collections. Last fall, Special Collections announced the launch of the online Art and Artifact Collections Database, which is available to the Tri-College community on the Web at

Using the online database, students, faculty and staff of Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges can search the collection by date, location, period, artist, medium, and several other categories. A search in “Tools and Equipment,” for instance, can bring up entries featuring weaponry or ancient farming, hunting, and fishing equipment.

The project began in early 2009 with funding from the College’s Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art.

Collections Information Manager Cheryl Klimaszewski was hired to oversee the project, helping Collections Curator and Academic Liaison Emily Croll and Collections Manager Marianne Weldon consolidate about 20,000 existing records and transfer them into a new collection-management system, as well as creating new records for objects that had not previously been cataloged.

Now, in early 2011, over 24,000 objects in the art and artifact collections have been entered into the online database, though some objects have been researched and cataloged to a greater level of detail than others. Of the 24,000 object records available online, almost 18,000 of those have also been photographed. A number of objects from Haverford’s collections have been entered into the database as well.

Bryn Mawr students have played a key role in the process. Classics graduate student Diane Amoroso O’Connor spent the 2009-10 academic year as a collections information management intern. Graduate students in history of art and in classical and Near Eastern archaeology also made major contributions, as did a team of undergraduates. According to Klimaszewski, 20 students have worked on the project so far.

Sarah Mitchell ’10, a Bryn Mawr student completing her fifth year as part of the combined AB/MA program in history of art, was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute:

“A lot of the skills I’ve learned are really applicable to museum work,” Mitchell says, explaining that she hopes to go into curatorial work after graduation. “Working on the database has been a great learning experience.”

The online database uses EmBARK, a collections-management system that many art museums around the world use to manage their holdings. Digitizing the information not only helps the Special Collections staff manage the Art and Artifacts collection, but also offers better access to the collections at Bryn Mawr, Haverford and soon, Swarthmore.

“This is part of a larger push to make the collections available to more viewers,” says Klimaszewski, “not just to art history and archaeology students and faculty members, but also to students, faculty or staff members in any discipline.”

Professors can request specific items and hold classes with them in the special seminar room on the second floor of Canaday. Items can also be individually requested and viewed in the Special Collections reading room.

Both spaces, as well as the public exhibition space and display case, are part of the new Eva Jane Romaine Coombe ’52 Special Collections Suite in Canaday Library.

“Having real artifacts and objects that can be brought into the classroom is really exciting,” says Klimaszewski. “It really brings things to life for the students.”

Contact with questions about Special Collections or the new online database.

—Ellie Rhymer ’12

Comments are closed.