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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:
November 7, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License

National Portrait Gallery's Collections Information System Web Interface
Linda Thrift, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, USA

Demonstration: Your Colleagues - 2

The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG), would like to demonstrate its new Collections Information System Web interface. This new Web database contains more than 80,000 portrait records, including 13,000 records from the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, accompanied by digital images when available. The Portrait Gallery's collections of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and photographs document the diversity of individuals who have made significant contributions to the history and culture of the United States.

In addition to the NPG collections, the new Web database includes nearly 70,000 records from the Catalog of American Portraits (CAP), a national survey of American portraits in public and private collections across the United States and abroad. The CAP encompasses portraits of American subjects or by American artists, generally limited to one-of-a-kind likenesses, such as paintings, sculpture, drawings, miniatures, and silhouettes.

The new Collections Information System Web interface is a valuable resource to curators, art and social historians, collectors, writers and publishers, scholars and educators. The records are searchable by sitter or artist name (and alternate names), classification, medium, date, keyword, and many more fields. The keyword search provides a hierarchical thesaurus for retrieving portraits by principal biographical distinctions such as Chemist/Scientist and certain cultural affiliations such as Chiricahua/Apache/Native American.

The entire system is built on NPG's existing collections management database, The Museum System (TMS), so that curators can easily manage the Website content without needing to master new technology. New material from both the NPG collections and the CAP survey is added regularly. As this information is catalogued and validated, it is automatically published to the Website. A collections page on the Website gives curators a place to publish highlighted groups of objects.

The site was built using eMuseum from Gallery Systems. Information is retrieved from TMS as XML, and then merged with XSL and HTML templates using ASP. Because the application is built on accepted web standards it allows room for future growth.

This demonstration will focus on the database's breadth of content, its powerful search capabilities, and potential applications of the highlighted object groups.

The new interface is scheduled to be launched February 2003.