Inspired by the recent Smithsonian 2.0 conference, we've been thinking about new ways to engage visitors to the Luce Foundation Center in a conversation. We hope the Fill the Gap activity, which asks the public to help us make decisions, will encourage dialogue about the collections and reveal some of the inner workings of the museum!
The Luce Foundation Center is not a static space. Artworks frequently depart on loan to other institutions or for display in other galleries within the museum. If an object is leaving for more than twelve months, the Luce Center staff is responsible for selecting a replacement. It's a lengthier process than you might imagine. We work with the registrar, conservation, and curatorial departments to ensure that the artwork will fit in the gap (the cataloged dimensions for paintings do not include the frames!), has no outstanding conservation issues, is appropriate for the theme of the case, and has not been selected for any upcoming loans or exhibitions.
This has been a busy year so far. More than forty paintings are slated to leave the Luce Foundation Center for other exhibitions, and it is only March! For this reason, we decided to open up this process and ask our online communities for help. Using Flickr, we can share a photo of a case that needs a replacement artwork, provide information about all of the other works in the case, and challenge people to search our collections in order to find an appropriate substitution. What a wonderful way to engage our audiences, shed some light on behind-the-scenes activities, and get some input that will genuinely help our staff members do their jobs!
We posted the first Fill the Gap challenge to our Flickr group in early February, and just a couple of weeks later, our chief curator approved the suggestion made by participant Jeanne Kramer-Smyth. Two more gaps went up in late February, so check them out and let us know if you have any ideas!