We have a new feature on the Prendergast section of our online collection database , the “Prendergast Subject Browser”. Various people have previously said to me that they do not know what to search for in our collection database because they do not know what works are in the museum’s collection. Since the Williams College Museum of Art is the world’s largest repository of the work by artist brothers Maurice and Charles Prendergast, museum staff thought that it would be a great idea to increase the accessibility and visibility of the collection by creating a search option that can guide users through the exploration process. The “Prendergast Subject Browser” can help users by suggesting possible search terms, including specific locations, themes (like patriotism and religion), leisure activities, and a variety of landscape features such as views of the countryside, cityscapes, and water features. The “Prendergast Subject Browser” was developed using the Catalogue Raisonné and from taking a look at the online collections of a variety of other museums that have Prendergast works in their collections.
In order to use the Prendergast Subject Browser on our website you first click on the box that says “Click the box to select one or more subject terms from the Prendergast Subject Browser”. A smaller box will pop up that says “Prendergast Subject Hierarchy”. In the box under where it says “Enter a term to search on”, you can type terms that you may think relate to the Prendergasts such as “Boston”. You cannot just press enter. Instead, you need to click on the button that says “Search”. If the term that you are searching on is indeed a part of the hierarchy, the hierarchy will expand and the term you are searching for will be highlighted in a different color font. Then, to select this term you need to click on the actual word. The term will then populate the search box on the original screen. If “Boston”, for example, is the only term you would like to search on, you would click the button that says “Close” in the “Prendergast Subject Hierarchy” box. Then, if you click on the button that says “Submit” you will get all of the Prendergast works that have been labeled by project staff as being related to “Boston” or whichever subject term you have chosen. If you would like to narrow your search further you can check the “Find in Found checkbox” and search again within those search results.
Project staff will continue to add new objects to the “Prendergast Subject Browser” throughout our project, including the archival materials. When this happens, users will be able to search for all of the paintings that relate to Boston (for example) and all of the letters or ephemera materials. Users will then be able to search for frames and view records for the actual frames as well as letters that discuss the process of carving the frames. The subject browser will bring together the fine art and archival pieces in an attempt to bring the materials to life and highlight connections between related objects.
For example, when you select “Venice” and the date “1911″ you can read this letter Maurice Prendergast sent to his brother Charles from Venice on November 26, 1911 (A.1.68):
By using those search terms, you will also get in the results a watercolor of Venice completed by Maurice Brazil Prendergast in that same year, entitled “Rialto, Venice” (86.18.79):
We hope that you enjoy exploring the museum’s Prendergast collection through subject browsing, and that it expands your understanding of the locations, themes, and landscape features that relate to the works. If you have any further questions about how the “Prendergast Subject Browser” works, you can contact the project staff through the Prendergast web pages.