Vesica Blog - Taking museum and art collections to the cloud

April 26, 2012

When Museums Pay for Free Consulting

The short answer is always. And they pay more than they would have than if they paid upfront.

Following on from my last article “Museum Technology: Adopt and Adapt” which discussed how museums need to use technology to become more efficient in today’s economy, this article will address another simple concept that applies in business, but which many museums seem to overlook, with disastrous results.

First of all – there is no such thing as free consulting – someone is paying for it – if it’s not the museum, it is the person rendering those services. The concept of volunteerism has been stretched to its extremes in this industry, especially in the UK, where people are expected to work in institutions with no or little compensation for years, and it doesn’t do anyone much good. It leads to the type of attitude discussed in this article: “What would you save? Museums or Libraries?“, and when it is taken to its extremes and professional consultants are ask to volunteer their services, in the end, the museum will pay for it, and pay more – much more.

Take, for instance, the case of a museum in London that we recently engaged with. It’s a wonderful museum and has some great medieval treasures, but they are managed rather inefficiently, especially when it comes to spending on technology and infrastructure. A few years ago, when the museum was looking to invest in IT, instead of hiring a professional for advice, they went to someone who volunteered from the local hospital’s IT department. Now, that may have seemed like a great idea at the time – not paying a professional some money to gather the requirements and recommend exactly what the museum needs. Instead, this free consultation led the museum into being tied with a paid contract with the hospital, which now provides IT support to the museum, maintains their website and a custom-built collections management system – when they can. Exciting, no? What’s more, for a small collection, they are paying extravagant sums of money. Let’s put things into context, they could save about £35,000 a year if they used a service like Vesica. What, then, you wonder, could a small museum do with £35,000 a year for 5 more years if only they didn’t go for the free consultation at the beginning. That’s the price you pay for a free consultation.

Then there is the arts centre in Central London. Run by a trust, volunteers and 2 employees, this trust approached a private college in the area for advice on what to procure for setting up a website and email. Again, this was a case of getting free advice, which was a good option as recommended by those working for free (the volunteers and the trustees). The college insisted that the arts centre must buy and manage their own servers. Yes, their own servers for 5 email accounts and 7 page website. After recommending spending £15,000 and helping the arts centre procure the hardware, the college was unable to support them because their IT personnel were busy, and the centre would have to pay for IT staff’s time to get everything set up. This advice was wrong from the outset and it cost the arts centre at least £10,000 in wasted spending, which came from a grant they got to promote and support the arts locally.

These are just 2 examples of the countless ones in and around the UK – the fact is that when someone is giving you free advice, they will advise you to their benefit, which will not be in the benefit of the museum, and will cost more than an initial consultation fee.

In other words, good advice is not free. You can’t get everything volunteered, and you shouldn’t have to.

Aim for professionalism instead of volunteerism every time and all who are involved will benefit.

November 25, 2011

Vesica charts get drill down functionality

Filed under: News,Using Vesica — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 3:29 pm

Vesica users today will be able to drill down from Vesica charts into detailed data about their collections. This functionality makes interacting with your collections easier, faster and more intuitive. Where as before you could just visualize your collection via the pie charts and would have to search independently to get the list of objects that made up the chart, you can now simply click on the appropriate slice of the pie in the chart, once to slide it out, and a second time to click through to get a list of objects that make up the statistic.

Let’s show you how it works. Below is a pie chart of all the artists who have work listed in the account we’re looking at. You’ll also note in the chart that we’ve clicked on Vincent Van Gogh once, so his piece of the pie has slid out.

Pie Charts - Drill Down Functionality

 If you clicked on the Van Gogh piece of the pie again, you’ll go to a page that will list all 61 objects in your account which have Van Gogh tagged as the artist.

Van Gogh in Vesica

The drill down functionality has been applied to all 7 charts in Vesica.

November 15, 2010

The Malpractice of Art Collecting

Last year, I made the conscious decision to move away from tempting but morally void allure of the corporate world. After having spent many years dealing with large corporates and their representatives, or with other businesses in general, with support from some great people, I turned towards the art industry. It seemed different – unlike the business world, the art world appeared to have some character and the people who were involved in the traditional arts (that was my primary exposure at the time) appeared to very passionate about their work. Finally, I was getting to know some people who actually cared about what they were doing and did it because they wanted to do it and enjoyed doing it.

“This would be a great bunch of people to work with,” I thought to myself. That was a while ago. As I have become involved with the museum and art collecting ‘industry’ over the last year or so, the true character of the art industry has become clearer. It appears that the majority of art collectors collect for the wrong reasons, the majority of contemporary, modern artists produce art for no reason at all (and if you can’t see this in most modern art then you’re either part of the former, present or the next group) and the majority of art consultants or galleries, and in many instances, museums, are motivated and involved with the arts for what, shall we say, is questionable motivation.

A few weeks ago, we were contacted by an art consultant (who is involved with some museums and a company that writes software for museums) who is starting an art consultancy to help collectors manage and ‘enhance’ their collections. Whilst I would personally disagree with this person’s approach to collecting art, they made it clear that art world did not, and does not, really care about the actual objects or pieces of art in a collection, or their symbolical or historical importance. The interest lies around acquisition information, insurance details, rights management, in which employee is responsible and what they can do to maximize cash and revenue from the collections they help collectors manage.

This is a part of Vesica which has been lowest on our list of priorities (and is currently being developed as part of a new, single submission driven interface). Our current focus so far has been on documenting the art collections – documenting for those who are passionate about their collections, understand the techniques, materials, symbolism and effort that goes into producing a great piece of collectible art – not this modern mumbo jumbo of let’s assign a value and compute our commission. We are, after all, talking about an art collection, not an art calculation.

The reason for this is simple: so far we’ve dealt directly with collectors who have little of no commercial motivation – they collect art because it speaks to them. These are the people who are not involved in the malpractice of art. However, there are hundreds of thousands of galleries, collectors and artists who are all involved with this industry for only commercial reasons – and that’s ruining the sanctity of art.

These are the politicians and bankers of the art world – they are corrupting the essence and practice of art – especially in Europe. They’re involved in the industry because it’s a status symbol – because being an artist is hip, because collecting art means you’re sophisticated, and being an art consultant or art gallery means you will affluent clients. But does anyone really understand what they are involved with or trying to sell. Do you really think most of these people know why some of Monet’s work is worth millions – other than the fact that he’s dead and it is what Pierce Brosnan was trying to steal in the Thomas Crown Affair? Not really, no. It’s all about the Hollywood effect.

So if you’re one of those artists drawing squiggly lines and asking the viewer to discover the abstract meaning of your blindingly painful insult to art, one of those collectors who’s collecting art from someone because they’re about to get a deal signed with Sotheby’s or Christie’s, or one of those art consultants who are so ignorant about the symbolism of an Indian miniature painting or the skill involved in proportionately well drawn portraits or illustrations, you are involved in adding to the corruption of the art world. You are essentially involved in what I consider to be the malpractice of art. I would even name government institutions in several countries promoting such malpractice, but because of laws pertaining to libel, at this point, I will not name any person, artist, consultant or government organization. Really, none of them deserve any credit.If the motivation is commercial or financial, you should go into the business world – not hide behind the ‘innocence’ or purity of art.

But there is one saving grace for the deserving artist, the passionate collector, and the art collection consultant (who really is more of an elaborate and personalized curator, in my opinion, as opposed to an art collection calculator as many of them are today). Some of the world’s most affluent art collectors are the ones who will not make the media; they really don’t care to. These are the collectors who have collections in their houses which are more valuable than what museums have on display; these are the collectors who know which artist has real skill; these are the collectors who know which consultant to go to for documentation, research and advice, these are the people who don’t really care about acquisition notes or rights management issues – and you won’t find any of them on LinkedIn or Facebook as art collectors. Why? Because for them it is a passion – it’s not how they try to do business or make a living.

Whilst I have every intention of having Vesica capable of supporting the business functions required to manage art collections from a commercial standpoint, I don’t ever want us to become a business involved in the malpractice, inflatable commercialisation or demoralisation of art or antiques. It’s just not the artistically humane thing to do.

October 5, 2010

The Artist Tab Gets a Makeover

When we made the switch from beta to live last month, one of the last things we had not had time to redo for wider user and browser support was the “Artist” tab under “Pieces.” In fact, several users approached us with concerns over the interface being too heavy for their browsers or PCs (or Macs). We, therefore, made this our number one priority and have released the new interface. It works faster, looks better, is easier to use and allows you to associate multiple artists with one piece or work of art.

The screen is split into two parts – one where you can see which artists are already associated with the piece and another where you can search and associate more artists to a piece or work of art. It’s as simple as typing and clicking – and you’re all done. No more scrolling through 10,000 artists to pick the right one!

Here’s a screenshot to give you an idea of how it now works:

New Artist tab

New Artist Tab in Vesica - Art Collection and Management Software

To see how this works for yourself, create a Vesica account or Sign in.

September 3, 2010

The Upgraded Vesica Dashboard

Filed under: News,Upcoming Features,Using Vesica — Tags: , , , — Asif N @ 12:52 pm
Upgraded Vesica Dashboard

The Upgraded Vesica Dashboard

Vesica now has a new account dashboard. The new dashboard gives you an overview of the latest news, your account details, a breakdown of the various objects / pieces in your art collection as well as a comprehensive search facility.In addition to the dashboard, a new search and filtering facility also available on piece / object listing to quickly sort and filter collections by any criteria.

The new dashboard, released last week, will become a powerfool tool for collectors, museums and galleries looking to manage and document their art collection portfolios.

More information on Vesica’s comprehensive documentation platform and it’s new eCommerce features, user galleries and the master Vesica gallery is coming soon as we get ready to move the software out of beta and share some of amazing pieces of antique art already documented in Vesica.

May 14, 2010

Creating Art Collections in Vesica

Filed under: Using Vesica — Tags: — admin @ 3:49 pm

Creating an art collection in Vesica is as easy as clicking the mouse a few times. Really, following the steps below is is all it takes:

1. Sign in to your Vesica account.

2. Click on Collections from the mail Menu across the top.

3. Once you’re on the collections page, simply click on the create a collection button, and the collection name form will appear (see screenshot). Enter a name from the collection and press the continue button.

Vesica - Create a Collection

Vesica Screenshot - Create a Collection (1)

4. You will now go to the next screen which will allow you to enter a description and upload a default photograph for this collection. This information is optional. On this screen you will also have 3 tabs. Click on the Pieces tab to choose which pieces you would like to associate with this collection. Once selected, simply click the Submit button.

Vesica - Add Pieces to Collection

Vesica Screenshot - Add Pieces to Collection (2)

5. That’s all. Collection created. If you want to display the collection in your Vesica Gallery or the master Vesica Gallery, you can update the settings appropriately in the Settings tab.

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