Thinking Digital

Montreal, August 11th 2017

Digital Cultural Plan

While there is no shortage of inspiring ideas and initiatives for displaying and reinventing art and culture, their success lies in part in their simplified organization and dissemination of the data, images and multi-format contents associated with them. Since the launch of Québec’s digital cultural plan (PCNQ) by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications in 2014, that is precisely where the Musée’s major projects for digitizing and preserving collections come into play, as well as those for consolidating and upgrading collection-related data. Today these projects are well on the way to completion. Copyright management in a digital-dissemination environment and, very importantly, in an institution dedicated to contemporary art, is just as fundamental. Accordingly, the Musée established a new copyright management policy in 2015 that includes digital dissemination. Adopting digital technology and integrating it coherently into the Musée’s product offering and ecosystem require a broader change in culture that involves our procedures and ways of revitalizing them. Developing a digital strategy will also help in designing a digital architecture within the Musée itself, based on its main functions. Clearly, thinking digital entails a host of considerations beforehand, and a long-term effort to successfully produce the desired results, namely digital tools and experiences that are enriching and that also promote opportunities for dialogue with our different publics. One other achievement of the PCNQ is the digitization of the archives of the artist Paul-Émile Borduas—a major figure in the history of Québec and Canadian art, father of the Automatist movement and lead author of the Refus global manifesto—which will contribute to the archives’ preservation and expanded access.

Archives of artist Paul-Émile Borduas

In 1972, with the assistance of the emergency fund provided for by the National Museum Policy[1],National Museums of Canada purchased an important body of works and personal papers of the painter Paul-Émile Borduas. Acquired directly from the Borduas family, the works (46 paintings, 4 watercolours, 3 gouaches, 1 charcoal and 21 small ink drawings) and the extensive archives (4.9 m of textual documents, 886 iconographic documents, 20 technical or architectural drawings and 5 objects) had to be preserved in a single collection, as per the family’s wishes. Because of its mission and location—in “the very city where Borduas, a major proponent in the revival of painting, played a leading role in launching the Automatist movement in the 1940s”[2]

—the Musée would become the depository of the archives in 1973.The first private archives to join the Musée collection, and an essential complement to the 116 works by the painter that it houses today, the Paul-Émile Borduas fonds was the perfect candidate for launching a digitization project. Borduas’s correspondence, writings, numerous photographs and other documents that make up the archives have all been catalogued and a new module was developed in order to integrate the archives into the Musée’s collections database. The resulting 1,697 descriptions, which further research may continue to enhance, associated with more than 1,500 items that underwent digitization, are now accessible to Musée employees and to researchers, and will play a part in expanding access to this outstanding collection.

To follow the progress of our digital projects, click here.

 

[1] The National Museum Policy “aims to preserve the national heritage, as well as to make the cultural expressions that the wide variety of art objects represents much more accessible to all Canadians.” [Translation] (“Les Musées nationaux achètent une importante collection d’œuvres de Borduas,” press release issued by the Secretary of State, May 25, 1972)

[2] Excerpt from a speech given at the Musée by The Honourable J. Hugh Faulkner, Secretary of State, on October 4, 1973. [Translation]

 

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