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Everson archives to enter the digital age

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Everson archives to enter the digital age
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For years, the priceless works of art on display in museums have been making their way to a newer exhibition space: the internet. Digital archives offer the chance for art lovers and researchers to get an up-close look at works without ever leaving their homes. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us what's made it possible for Syracuse's Everson Museum of Art to take that next step.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- From practical to pop art, the ceramics collection at the Everson Museum of Art tells the story of the medium as few other exhibits can. It's the largest collection of American ceramics in the world, including the "Mona Lisa" of ceramics, the Scarab Vase.

"One woman who was visiting from Dallas, she was talking to a group of us and she said, 'For you, this is your hometown museum. For me, this is like a trip to Mecca,'" said Steven Kern, the Everson's executive director.

But when it comes to the collection's archives and its unique documents of the history of ceramics in the United States, art lovers and researchers are out of luck.

"The archives now are exactly where you'd expect archives to be: they're on shelves, they're in boxes," said Kern. "What we want to do is get those archives out of the files and we do that by digitizing the entire collection."

A grant from the Henry Luce Foundation is going to help make that possible. The museum has been awarded $230,000 to put the American ceramics collection and its archives online.

Those who aren't actually able to walk through the museum and browse its collection will be able to log onto the database, search items by keyword, and even see pictures from all angles on the different works.

The undertaking is an expensive one and can be challenging for smaller institutions. It's something that would've been in the distant future for the Everson without the Luce grant, and they're grateful they have the chance now.

"Technology has offered so much just in the last two or three years, so we're actually able to build more than some of those bold institutions that took the first step back in the early 1990s, a lot of them are re-doing what they started with," said Kern.

While this may be the first step into digital archives for the museum, it likely won't be the last. The executive director said ideally, all of the museum's works will be available.

Officials at the Everson expect the digital archive to be up and running in about two years. Once it's done, everyone will be able to access it through the museum's web site. Funding from the grant will also help with space renovation, reconfiguration, and reinstallation of the ceramics collection.

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