As anyone who has visited the galleries of the Fleming Museum of Art is quick to discover, the collection is global in scope, and includes outstanding examples of African, Asian, Native American, Ancient Near Eastern, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, European, and American art. Yet only a small fraction of those collections are on view at any given time. Examples of objects rarely on view include a sword made of shark teeth from the Pacific island nation Kiribati; a drawing of John Dewey by Henri Matisse; a maternity dress from the early days of the American republic; and a turn-of-the-century telephone built by a Burlington electrician.
A new age of access to the Fleming Museum’s collections has arrived with the launch of an online search feature that will enable visitors to the website to browse and view over 20,000 objects from the Museum’s permanent collection. “The launch of our online collections—which was already long in the works—is especially timely, given our closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Fleming Museum director Janie Cohen. “We are excited to offer our audiences online access to explore and engage with the collection.”
Seamlessly integrated with the Museum’s website, the online search tool will allow students, teachers, scholars, and art and history lovers of all stripes to browse or search for artworks and artifacts, and view images and information for objects both on view in the galleries and tucked away in storage. The database can be viewed from practically anywhere. From a desktop computer, tablet, or a mobile device, collection images and information are displayed in an attractive and easy-to-use platform that adapts to any screen size. Web visitors can browse the rarely-displayed Oceania collection, or explore unusual categories of objects the Museum has collected in the past, such as dolls, household items, and tools. There are also filters to narrow your focus within a particular collection—including the types of materials used, time period, and geographic area. With the fun and useful “My Collection” feature, users can create, save, and share their own lists of objects — an invaluable research tool, as well as the opportunity to try your hand at being a curator.
This online collection database is the result of a multi-year digitization effort of the Fleming’s collections department, led by the Museum’s manager of collections and exhibitions, Margaret Tamulonis, who notes that hundreds of students have assisted Museum staff in contributing to a wide range of research on the collection over the past 85 years, first on paper and now in digital form. The majority of the collection has been carefully photographed and cataloged, but the process is far from complete. Many more objects will be photographed and their data-enhanced as the collections team continues its digital documentation, and as students, faculty, and scholars contribute their research.
The online collections feature is currently in beta mode —the Museum encourages users to explore the site and provide us with feedback regarding their online experience. We are excited to offer an “Ask Us” feature for assistance with research. Staff members will respond to queries with search tips, object suggestions, and more information about the collection. The database can be accessed by visiting the Fleming’s newly redesigned website and selecting the Collections page, where a link will take you to the interactive search experience.
“We look forward to our audiences better getting to know the broad scope of our collection,” adds Cohen. “While the Fleming opened in 1931, the University of Vermont began collecting more than a century earlier. Many surprises await curious collection explorers!”
The Fleming Museum of Art is deeply grateful to the generous sponsors who helped us to realize our goal of bringing our collections online including the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the 1675 Foundation, Joan Kalkin and Eugene Kalkin ’50, and James and Judith Pizzagalli.