New UMMZ website features museum art dating back a century
Monday, July 02, 2012
"High-quality scientific illustrations have always played an important role in the documentation of planetary biodiversity," said Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, director of UMMZ. “For nearly a century, UMMZ artists have produced exquisite illustrations of research specimens. This online collection represents a portion of that art. Our long-term goal is to enter all of our biodiversity artwork, representing thousands of illustrations, into this online database.”
Notable former illustrators include Grace Eager, Bill Brudon and Martha B. Lackey, who worked at the UMMZ from the 1930s to the 1970s. They used traditional illustration techniques of carbon dust, ink wash and pen and ink. Prior to this online gallery, there wasn’t a way to showcase the art.
“Given the amount of artwork at UMMZ, it will take about a year to have it all entered into the database,” estimates John Megahan, the website designer. The process is underway with about 100 illustrations already online in a searchable database. Ultimately, the collection will include thousands of pieces of art from all divisions including birds, fish, insects, mammals, mollusks, reptiles and amphibians.
Eager was known for her carbon dust illustrations, a technique of rubbing a carbon pencil on sandpaper, collecting the fine carbon dust, and painting with it. “It produces some spectacular results,” said Megahan, the current artist at the museum.
Other artistic techniques commonly used at the museum were pencil drawings, acrylic paintings and gouache painting, which is similar to watercolor except that the results are opaque. There is some artwork in the archive by artists from outside the museum. Megahan said that it’s detective work to identify some of these artists. If you can identify the artist for any of the artwork that is unknown, please contact Megahan.
The new site structure provides for greater security and dependability as well as database connectivity that was not previously possible, including better accessibility to the bird and mollusk databases. The web design is an update of the previous design by Megahan. He didn’t stray too far from the previous well-liked design. He streamlined the site and cleaned up the code behind the scenes.
The Museum of Zoology is a research facility. It is not usually open to the public but the website gives the outside world a look inside the Museum of Zoology’s fascinating and multifaceted collections.
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