Researching Female Printmakers of the 20th Century

A look at Collectrium, the database software I worked with this semester.


Researching Female Printmakers of the 20th Century

Carson Sanov, Museum Studies Intern at O’Brien Art House – Spring 2022 

This semester I worked with independent curator Hannah Turpin to help digitize Marty O'Brien's private art collection. My main goal for the semester was to research the exhibition and publication history of the prints in his collection, and to enter that information for each piece into the Collectrium, the digital management system that Marty is using to keep track of his collection.  

The driving force behind Marty’s collection is his passion for art, especially art that went unappreciated in its own time. The focus of his showcase is twentieth-century artists who were well regarded and influential in their time period, but for whatever reason failed to become as well-known as some of their contemporaries – think “the best artists you’ve never heard of.” In keeping with that idea, I decided to focus my research on the female printmakers represented in the collection. The sexism that permeates every industry and trade did not make many exceptions, but the progress of the last few decades has encouraged many to appreciate previously uncelebrated contributions to the art world. 

At the start of this internship, I struggled a bit balancing thorough and comprehensive research with making my deadlines and deliverables. Of course, my goal is to provide as complete a picture as possible of the display history of each piece, but it is unreasonable to spend an entire day researching a single work of art. Fortunately, as I became more familiar with the resources I was using to find information (Google, Google Scholar, PittCat, other libraries and databases, etc.) and as I became more comfortable working with Collectrium, I was able to speed up my workflow without having to compromise the thoroughness of my research. 

As I come to the end of this internship, I’m very proud of the work that I was able to get done and pleased with the experience that I gained. I have an increased understanding of how a collection is maintained and how information regarding a collection is gathered and updated, both of which were things I wanted to know more about at the start of the semester. Additionally, I have a much better understanding of Collectrium, and although different institutions certainly make use of other databases, my experience with it has been very informative and will be useful when the time comes for me to make use of another database. I found it very fulfilling to be able to help complete the story of these pieces and also these artists. Although extensive research and summarizing isn’t the most glamorous work, it is essential to make sure that these artists’ accomplishments are remembered. 

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh