All archaeological museum holdings to be online

Image caption: A faience statuette of Isis suckling Horus, from the Eton College Myers Collection, is one of the 10,000 objects at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum being made available for study online.


The entire Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum collection will soon be accessible in the classroom and online for the first time in its 132-year history, thanks to new funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The $136,000 grant was announced by the IMLS, which awards the highly competitive grants to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

The grant will allow the museum to hire a full-time collections technician for 31 months to complete the online catalog, a process that has been ongoing for the past four years with the assistance of undergraduate and graduate students. The project will make the entire collection of more than 10,000 museum objects available for teaching and research.

While the collection is already a well-used resource, with students in 150 classes visiting the museum in the last four years, hundreds of objects are still in storage waiting to be examined and studied. Last year, the museum's website and catalog had nearly 28,000 visitors, a number expected to rise significantly when the full collection is available, says Betsy Bryan, the Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology in the Krieger School and director of the museum.

"This project will transform the way the museum collection is used, making it fully available not only to members of the university community but also opening the collection more completely to researchers and the public beyond Johns Hopkins."

Since 2010, when the new museum opened as part of the renovation of Gilman Hall, the documentation, preservation, and use of the collection have increased exponentially. In the last four years, more than 8,000 objects have been recorded for the first time in a digital, searchable database, and more than 2,000 students have worked with the collection as part of their course work. However, a portion of the collection remains packed and temporarily stored in another building on the Homewood campus. Approximately 5,200 objects need to be photographed so that they can be made fully digitally accessible.

Curator/conservator Sanchita Balachandran, who will oversee the project, says, "These changes in the awareness and accessibility of the collection represent a complete transformation in the care and use of the collection. The tremendous success of the museum in engaging students, researchers, and visitors has drawn an audience increasingly eager for both physical and virtual access to the objects and their documentation."

Having the collection online as well as on display in its Gilman Hall home will further the museum's mission to foster greater access for teaching, research, exhibition, and long-term preservation, Balachandran says. In addition to bringing the collection to the world, staff will be able to track the number and multidisciplinary scope of courses being taught within the museum. As more archaeological material is made accessible, identified, and researched, the museum will be able to offer new exhibits, public programs, and tours highlighting these discoveries, thus engaging a broader public.

Institute of Museum and Library Services museum grants support a wide variety of projects that create learning experiences, strengthen communities, care for collections, and provide broad public access.

The grants are highly competitive, says Susan H. Hildreth, director of the institute.

"We enlist hundreds of library and museum professionals throughout the United States to review grant applications and make recommendations on projects most worthy of funding," Hildreth says. "Receiving a grant from IMLS is a significant achievement."