It’s a week for new occasional series! This spring, students in the Museums and Online Learning class, taught by Cynthia Robinson, wrote short reviews of various online learning opportunities. We are lucky enough to be publishing them here on the TMSB. They’ll appear over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out. Posts will appear under their authors’ names, or anonymously.

Wellesley College’s Davis Museum:

This Alumna Tells All

It may or may not surprise you that the Davis online collection was not the most memorable aspect of my four years at Wellesley. Perhaps I was too busy when I was there to give it a fair chance. However, upon some investigation, the verdict is clear: the collection’s website is about as impressive as Tuesday night leftovers in the dining halls.

The online collection is separated into the same thematic groupings used at the museum itself. These include, “Perceiving Space in Art,” “The Artist as Curator: Kiki Smith,” “American Art,” and “Stories, Ideals, Beliefs.” If they sound compelling, it’s probably because they are, however grouping them in such a way online seems counterproductive to the purpose of the online collection. Surely in person the collection ought to invite discussion about the art based on theme, but if I’m browsing the site for examples of East Asian art for a paper, within this framework it’s not exactly clear where to start.

For a self professed “academic fine arts museum,” I was also expecting that their online collection might include more resources, perhaps by class subject, or professors’ interests. There are podcasts offered on various subjects, but they fall short when it comes to real research potential. If I’m trying to write that paper on East Asian art, it’s likely that I would want to write it on a piece that I know is in the collection. However, without any research guides, or ability to browse by region or culture, I could see myself pulling an all-nighter hunting for that perfect example. I guess I know it’s not in “American Art,” right…

… Oh wait, I can’t know for sure, because when I click on a link to each theme, I get sent to a brief description of the gallery or exhibition, where I have the option of clicking on various related podcasts. While they range in content from professor lectures, to student responses, to linked art projects, none of them tell me about what art might be found in that gallery.

To try and do that, I click on “Search the Collections,” where I am succinctly informed:

“Images featured in the Davis Museum Collections Database are low-resolution thumbnails, intended for quick reference and limited use.”

And, in case you were wondering, indeed they are.  Too small to see any details, and without any information to further my research, the collection’s use is certainly limited.

Wellesley is my beloved alma mater, and so at least I can say this: the Wellesley experience is much better appreciated by views of the lake, Sundae’s on Sunday, and seeing the collection in person.