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A long winter between Axiell, records and HDD's

My main task during my four months here at the #StreetArt MuseumAmsterdam consisted of working with the cataloguing platform #Axiell, with the goal of publishing a complete online inventory of all the artworks in the museum's collection.

During my training time in Valencia (Spain) I had the opportunity to improve my skills in the world of archiving and cataloguing by realizing an internship of several months in the Centro de Documentación Cinematográfica (Film Documentation Centre) of La Filmoteca de Valencia. This entity, halfway between a museum and a film archive, is responsible for collecting, organizing and disseminating the audiovisual and literary heritage of La Filmoteca to the general public. In this sense, my work did not directly concern unique artworks as in the case of SAMA's collection, but rather multiples and reproducible objects such as books, videos and historical posters that had to be catalogued according to the MARC21 guidelines in force at the time.

Here at SAMA, the process of cataloguing is diametrically different from that of a library or an audiovisual archive. The approach followed by the museum is more museological and institutional and focuses, for the most part, on the documentation and conservation of unique and sometimes deteriorated or disappeared street works of art. Compared to the cataloguing of other objects (e.g. books, videos, films), in this case a greater insight is required into the ultimate importance of the artworks, their author and the relationship they have with the SAMA. The museological posture requires, at the same time, a certain knowledge of museology and museography, of the management of art collections and of art history in general in order to create a record as accurate as possible.

These are certainly two different but complementary ways of archiving. Undoubtedly, in the case of my professional growth, the period at SAMA has allowed me to refine my techniques towards a more artistic and museological direction, a line of research that I intend to follow and cultivate in the future.

The cataloguing was carried out using the Axiell platform and has not been free of problems, delays and misunderstandings due to the period of familiarisation with the system.

Axiell (formerly Adlib) is an online service that in recent years has established itself as a reference point for the conservation and cataloguing of art collections. Its use is relatively intuitive and simple, based on a preset scheme of filters and entries that can be freely modified, moved or enriched by the archivist. Axiell is also characterised by a multilingual interface that allows anyone to use its service with ease. Despite the fluidity of the system, it is not as intuitive as it may appear at first glance, and a period of training and familiarisation with the platform is certainly necessary to understand its dynamics and different functions.

The experience at SAMA was educational, interesting and challenging for my training. Upon my arrival, the catalogue only had incomplete records of most of the artworks, so I had to proceed with a relentless task of cataloguing to complete the objective of the museum's organisational plan. In addition, the cataloguing of the SAMA library has begun and it now includes almost two hundred items already inventoried.

The cataloguing process is not yet 100% complete, but it is certainly ready to be opened to the public in virtual format. There are still a few steps to be taken to optimise research and cataloguing, first and foremost the systematic organisation of the museum's hard-drives, which contain almost ten years of information about artworks, events, projects and audiovisual evidence. Currently, SAMA is in the process of ordering the period between 2018-2021 with the aim of facilitating and speeding up the process of cataloguing new artworks on Axiell.

I can only encourage those who succeed me in the cataloguing work to be patient, to organise their time diligently and to outline as far as possible a detailed programme of the steps to be followed from week to week. SAMA has a small team and everyone must be aware of their duties and at the same time be committed to helping with other tasks that may not directly concern them. Therefore, a dedicated archive assistant needs to be able to draw up a detailed plan well in advance so as not to create confusion or slow down the final result.

And finally, just wish you good luck and enjoy every week here at the museum!

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