Copyright Basics: A Workshop

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Friday morning, fresh from her hellacious 6 hour train trip to New York, Karen and I headed into DC for a day-long workshop about copyright basics. Trust me, if you work in a museum and you want to mount an exhibition (or post something on your blog!) you’ll want to know the basics of copyright. And what better place to learn about copyright than the Library of Congress

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Before getting down to the nuts and bolts of copyright, we divided into two groups and took a tour of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Our tour guide, John, was very knowledgeable and highly entertaining. Karen was particularly impressed with the mosaic of Minerva: her feet seem to point directly toward you no matter where you stand to see her. (I was also obsessing with feet as my new shoes were giving me blisters.)

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

John Saint Amour was also our first presenter for the workshop. He gave us an overview of the copyright office and the basics of copyright. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to:

* Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

* Prepare derivative works based upon the works

* Distribute copies of the work to the public nu sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending.

* Perform the work publically, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio-visual works.

* Display the works publically

* Perform the work publically

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

One of the most important facts that we learned (or were reminded of), was that just because the museum owns a painting, manuscript or photograph doesn’t mean that the museum owns copyright to the item. Further, the donor who signed the Deed of Gift might not own copyright to the item, even if it has been in the family’s possession for many years, as copyright is generally retained by the creator. This gave us something to mull over while we enjoyed our lunch in the LOC cafeteria.

Copyright protection is addressed in the Constitution of the United States.

Elizabeth Alberding, RC-MAAM Chair and Registrar at the Kelly Collection, took a quick run down to the Graphic Art Galleries to see the exhibition of Gibson Girl drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, as drawings from the Kelly Collection where she is registrar were on display.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

Our first afternoon session, “Is Your Coffee table Copyrighted,” with Larisa Pastuchiv was pretty lively as we discussed visual arts and copyrights. If the artistic quality of your coffee table can be separated from its functionality and exist as an independent work of art, then the artistic component can be copyrighted!  Mike Burke talked about the Digitization and Preservation projects at the LOC. Working backwards in time from 1977 the LOC is digitizing the 40 million copyright records on file.  Following current archival standards, they are making three copies of each hi-res scan and storing backups in several offsite facilities. We rounded out the afternoon with a talk about Fair Use and Public Domain with Chris Weston. Under current copyright law, copyright protection is valid for the life of the author/artist plus 70 years and anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. Of course the examples Chris cited indicate that “fair use” is subject to interpretation.

table 1 The carving and inlay are copyrightable, but the tables themselves are not.

table 2

This day-long workshop was presented by MAAM –the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums– as part of their Cornerstones Program. At $40 for members/$60 for non-members Cornerstones are a great bang for your buck! Check out the next Cornerstones Program – Understanding the Financials!

MAY 7 at the Liberty Science Center
9:30 AM – 3:00 PM

• Reading Financial Statements
• Developing Budgets
• Understanding the 990 Forms
• Case Study: Relocating the Shuttle Enterprise, from a Financial View


A one-day program focused on valuable financial knowledge for museum executives presented by experienced colleagues and industry professionals.

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Highlights from the MAAM Conference

Posted on November 4th, 2011 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager, Jobi Zink

Earlier this month I attended the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) conference here inBaltimore. I love MAAM because it’s a small conference but there are sessions for all sized-museums. Since it’s a regional conference I am connecting to colleagues who likely know my institution, know local vendors, and who I can call on in an emergency.

Sunday evening there was an opening reception at theSportsLegendsMuseum. In addition to catching up with Lauren Silberman& 2011 summer intern Carrie Coviello, the highlight of the evening was going into the collections vault and holding (with gloves of course!) Babe Ruth’s bat from 1927.

Monday morning I was on the panel for the “Registration in the Real World” session with Heather Kajic (US Holocaust Memorial Museum), Rosie Cook (Chemical Heritage Foundation) and Elizabeth Alberding (The Kelly Collecion of American Illustration). We spoke about what it was like to be a registrar in a large, mid-sized, and small museum, or to work for a private collector. Our panel represented the diversity in the title “registrar” and also focused on the fact that rarely is collections work done in the ideal conditions.

My presentation emphasized the four large archival collections that the JMM acquired since 2009 from Baltimore Hebrew University, National Council of Jewish Women, American Jewish Congress and YeshivatRambam. Planning in advance and utilizing interns was essential for organizing BHU. With that experience as a foundation we were able to bring in YR under less than ideal time constraints. Of course I also addressed the impact on our storage space and what it means for the future of our collections.

In the afternoon I attended “Taking your Museum to the Next Level with MAP & CAP. Former JMM Education & Program Coordinator Lauren Silberman was the moderator. The Museum Assessment Program and Conservation Assessment Programs are designed to strengthen museums, to help them organize their institution and reach higher potential. Since the JMM just completed the Self-Study portion of AAM Re-accreditation, I could empathize with those who have just gone through the process: it is a lot of work to gather everything together, to review and revise policies, to lift the corner of the carpet and see exactly what we’ve been ignoring or overlooking. As a MAP assessor myself (yet to be assigned) I gained a lot from John Simmonds, who spoke about the assessing process, expectations on both sides, and the time commitment involved. The guidelines provided should help the assessor provide constructive feedback rather than be perceived as a Museum Insultant.

Later that afternoon in the expo hall I was talking to two women who were raving about the session they had attended, “Taking Tips from the MySpace Generation: Photos, Photos, Photos.” They were particularly impressed with the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s organization and use of photographs—and how easy it was for our entire staff to find them. Kudos to Rachel Kassman, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr & Jennifer Vess on their presentation.

Mona Lisa made out of JellyBelly brand jelly beans was on display in the expo hall.

Tuesday’s sessions were also excellent. “Strategizing Museum Internships to Meet (and Manage) Everyone’s Expectations” emphasized the need for strong organization, a work plan with some variation, and communication between interns and their supervisors (or a neutral intern supervisor). One thing that I had nearly forgotten was that students pay for their internship credits, (and credits are not cheap) so their internship should be as challenging as a 3 credit classroom class! I came away from this session with some good ideas for supervisor training, brown-bag lunches, as well as the sense that the JMM internship program is pretty well on-track.

JMM interns

“Collection Protection: Keeping your Collections and Facilities Safe from Kids, Caterers and Chaos” was the final session I attended. The two big lessons I learned: have policies that spell out all of the rules—and review your policies in person with each rental, caterer, florist etc., and kindly enforce the rules as you monitor your events.

Tuesday afternoon Elizabeth Alberding, Rosie Cook & I (the RC-MAAM board) came to the JMM to set up for the White Gloves Gang dinner. At 7 PM 32 people gathered in our lobby to visit Voices of Lombard Street, eat, and learn about the important service projects completed by the WGG. Avi Decter spoke about the impact that the WGG has on smaller museums and how this crew gives gangsters a good name. The WGG allows registrars and collections-y people to help smaller museums tackle projects that they couldn’t complete on their own. It also gives students chance to apply classroom knowledge to real life settings.

Thanks to Crozier, Ateleir, MAAM, and AAM Registrar’s Committee for sponsoring dinner. Thanks to Gaylord, Hollinger/Metal Edge, and University Products for donating the museum supplies, and thanks to Ed Noonan/VIP transport for bringing the supplies to us. Thank you to the Fells Point Preservation Society, Historical Society of Baltimore County, Jewish Museum of Maryland, Lovely Lane Archives and Museum,NationalElectronicsMuseum, andSportsLegendsMuseumfor hosting the White Gloves Gang. And of course, thank you to all of the White Gloves Gang volunteers.

Tomasina& Ashley number photographs

Alvania types up boxlists

Ashley cleans a pot for “Chosen Food”

Check out our blog for guest posts from other WGG members!

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The White Gloves Gang is Coming!

Posted on September 16th, 2011 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager, Jobi Zink

The White Gloves Gang is coming to Baltimore on October 12—and they are looking for more gang members!


Check out the recruitment flyer

What is the White Gloves Gang? No, its not a bunch of waiters or caterers (although that would be a good guess since a) they wear white gloves and b) we’ve been talking a lot about food with our upcoming Chosen Food exhibition.) And no, its not a bunch of fastidious maids coming to see how well you’ve dusted your credenza (although this guess is a little closer to the real answer).

Taking the name from the distinguished (okay, distinguishing!) cotton garment routinely worn when handling art and artifacts, the White Gloves Gang comprises registrars, collections managers, archivists, conservators and Museum Studies students who come together at the end of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) conference for a one-day service project.

A registrar’s favorite accessory!

Since the MAAM conference is in Baltimore this year from October 9-12,  I am coordinating all of the Gang’s activities! I’ve scouted out a number of museums and talked with their staff. Almost every museum had a collections project that needed many hands to tackle. The trick is finding a project (or 2) that 4+ people can work on and complete in one day.  The gang will be helping at the following venues: Sports Legends Museum, Fells Point Preservation Society, National Electronics Museum and the Historical Society of Baltimore County  to number artifacts, conduct inventory, catalog books, shift boxes, folder archives and photograph objects.

 Past Gangs working on White Gloves projects

If you have object numbering, archival processing, photography, or database skills and you’ve ever wanted to work in a museum for a day (or a different museum from the one that currently employs you!), please join the gang! Registration at the MAAM conference is not required to join the gang. Contact Jobi Zink for more information.

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