The Print Blocks Strike Back – Winterthur Week 8

You Thought They Were Gone For Good…

And honestly, so did I. When Paula and I finished photographing the last box of print blocks, I thought that would be the end of it for me. But it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.

Because in addition to the 12 boxes of print blocks, Winterthur also received two binders full of accessioned print block prints on paper. They all definitely correspond to the print blocks in the 12 boxes, but no one took the time to label corresponding blocks and prints.

That is, until this Thursday and Friday.

This ended up being my work station.

This ended up being my work station.

I spent the last two days holed up in the Registrar’s office, creating a spreadsheet for the binders. Each page in the binder received a number, and then I hunted through the uploaded print block images in the museum database to deduce which blocks created each print.

For example, take this print:

print matching bird

I labeled it in the top corner as print 83. If we go back and consult the spreadsheet, we find that print 83 is on page 41 with several other prints, and by my deductions, it was likely made by print blocks 2017.0019.121.089 A and B.

print matching - screenshot 2

Those two print blocks look like this:

2017.0019.121.089 A

2017.0019.121.089 A

2017.0019.121.089 B

2017.0019.121.089 B

Another? Sure. This one is print number 7 from page 2 in Binder 13-1:

13-1 page 2 image 7

This image is only made from one print block, 2017.0019.121.007.

2017.0019.121.007

2017.0019.121.007

A Giant Matching Game

It felt like a giant game of “Memory” – sorting through all the print block images, trying to remember where in the bunch you glimpsed certain patterns. I was very lucky that, for the most part, whoever organized the prints and packaged the print blocks into boxes put them in roughly the same order, which made the matching process slightly more systematic.

Does it match? Maybe.

Does it match? Maybe.

One or two prints had blocks in random spots in the massive collection, and trying to find the block was almost maddening. My respect and appreciation for organization has grown hugely.

To the people who regularly create order out of chaos and logical systems to help the rest of us – you have my eternal gratitude.

Image 132

What Now?

225 images of prints later, I think I’ve matched them all to the proper blocks that made them. The spreadsheet is all filled out with the page numbers, print numbers, and parent blocks, and all the prints have been photographed. Next week I will likely download all the images and rename them so they are easier to identify.

Image 156

Paula mentioned we will need to ask the Textile Curator if she wants these prints officially accessioned into the museum system. If she says yes, that means all the prints will receive new accession numbers and have their own file in the museum database.

Other possible futures for the prints include attaching the images of the prints to the print blocks’ multimedia files. That way, the prints can offer a visual reference for what the print block prints look like, without accessioning every single print. Another option would be to house the binders with the object files for the print blocks, or have them live in the museum library’s archives for reference and potential future study.

image 126

This week featured some experience with creating order out of volumes of data, photographing, matching, and taking “attention to detail” to a whole new level. It took quite a bit of time, but luckily, not too much of my sanity.

Image 172

This print was made by one block.

image 173

This print was made by two different blocks.

Bonus: Weird Accession of the Week

Earlier on Monday, Paula and I went through a new (non-print block) box from the American Textile History Museum, which we are pretty sure contained supplies to paint print blocks.

One plastic box featured three toothbrushes, some toothpicks, and antifungal cream.

Here is everything in the box nicely arranged.

Here is everything in the box nicely arranged.

There was also a plastic bag filled with cotton balls and cotton balls wrapped in cloth. I got to count them so we could describe the contents of the box for the accession list.

Cotton balls