The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is the last of the world's major art museums to manage its collections with manual records. These records of the over 2.8 million objects in its collection cover a period of approximately 240 years since the museum was established by Catherine the Great in 1763. They contain vital information on the provenance, location and history of some of the most important works of art and objects of antiquity in existence today. The Collection Inventory Project, developed, directed and funded by Canadians, represents a major commitment to the preservation of world heritage.
The project involves the installation of a computer network that will service all nine curatorial departments of the museum. Each of these departments is a museum in its own right dating back to the establishment of the Hermitage. Approximately thirty personal computers will be linked into a common network. To date (2003), we have automated the Registrar's Department and are now providing computers for the Department of Western European Art. An internationally recognized software system, "TMS" from Gallery Systems of New York, has been purchased, translated and customized to meet the needs of the museum. To date, we have documented 8,000 objects and are satisfied that we are now ready to begin the labour intensive data entry phase of the project.
On-site inventory and record verification by archivists and curators is beginning in full earnest. Two museum trained photographers are being hired to take digital images of each object. These digital images along with corresponding data are being placed on the Hermitage website www.hermitagemuseum.org for use by the public, students and scholars worldwide. The record will be displayed in both Russian and English. The location of each object is verified. This will serve as the first systematic piece-by-piece physical inventory of the collection in almost fifty years. The first recorded inventory occurred in 1703, the next in 1896 and the last completed in 1954. We anticipate that this project will be completed over a five year period. The training of new staff on the software system is a major element of the project at this stage. The Canadian Heritage Information Network, Department of Canadian Heritage, is providing expertise and training to museum staff.
The project is directed by Dr. Mikhail Piotrovski, Director of The State Hermitage Museum, and Robert Kaszanits, President of The State Hermitage Museum Foundation of Canada Inc. Day-to-day activities are supervised by the Chief Curator of the Hermitage Museum, Tatiana Zagrebina. Quarterly progress reports are issued and semi-annual project reports are sent to all donors. Full transparency on the user of funds is assured. All financial statements are audited by KPMG and made available upon request.
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