Picturing Rochester : Behind the Scenes

Posted by on Jun 29 2009 | Behind The Scenes

One of the first meetings I attended at George Eastman House was an exhibition meeting for the community participation section of the 2006 exhibition  Why Look at Animals?

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It was at this meeting that it was decided  email would be the way people gave us their photographs. It seemed like a reasonable way to do it. And it is, if the number of submissions is, say, 40, or even 100. But when you get 1,000 or more submissions, suddenly the notion of downloading 1,000 picture-laden emails, reformatting every one to conform to a common format, printing it out, and attaching it to the wall becomes daunting.

And daunting it was. As you can see below, the unsung heroes of creative services (with help from the Department of Photographs) spent tireless hours formatting, printing, cutting, and hanging.

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For the upcoming exhibition Picturing Rochester, things need to be different. We will not have the luxury of time when it comes to hanging the fall shows, so the entire process needs to be efficient. And for all its success, the submission process for  Why Look at Animals? was not efficient.

The answer? Build a community submission tool.

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Instead of email, submitters fill out a simple form that sends us the picture. From there, the picture and information go into a database, from where we can review the submissions and make any necessary adjustments.

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This interface also allows printing in high resolution, right in our staff’s web browsers. No more single email account where everything goes, and no more reformatting by hand! The result?

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It’s still not 100% done, but its a good start, and a good deal faster than doing everything by hand!

Installation Shots of Why Look at Animals? by Barbara Galasso, Museum Photographer
Photograph of the PicturingRochester test installation by Todd Gustavson, Curator of Technology

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    Ryan Donahue is the Manager of Information Systems for the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. He loves Flickr, his Dogs, and the First Photograph of Lightning.

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