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Smithsonian American Art Museum shares the acquisition workflow and sample forms for TBMA collections

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The workflow outlined below, and the sample forms and definitions which follow, were developed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum to manage the acquisition of Time-Based Media Art (TBMA)

Revised 4/15/2016, Lynn Putney, Associate Registrar / Emily Schlemmer, Assistant Registrar, Collections Information

Click here to download this SAAM TBMA Workflow Document, or you can download The Workflow with all of the Editable Attachments.


    1. Curatorial: Standard SAAM Shipping Request + TBMA Pre-Arrival Master List
    • The Master List includes ALL items required for installation and display.
    • If multiple shipments/multiple senders are required, each shipment is represented by a separate Shipping Request referencing the initial Master List and indicating which items are expected in that individual shipment.


    1. Registrar: Items received are cross-checked against TBMA Pre-Arrival Master List
    • Inventory, visual inspection, brief description of items received
    • Curatorial and Sender are contacted re: any missing or extra items
    2. Conservation/Curatorial: TBMA Testing and Acceptance
    • Functionality and Content confirmed
      (Correct artworks received; equipment works; digital file sizes/formats as expected)
    3. Registrar: Standard SAAM Temporary Loan Receipt
    • If Testing and Acceptance indicates all is well, the following statement is added: "The equipment, components and content/content carriers listed were received as described, have been tested, and are functioning properly."
    • If circumstances require that the TL Receipt be sent prior to completing Testing and Acceptance, then the following statement is added: "The equipment, components and content/content carriers listed have NOT been tested; functionality unknown."



    1. Conservation/Curatorial/Exhibitions Dept.: TBMA Installation Iteration form(s)
    • Registrar must be notified if any new content formats are created or destroyed
    2. Conservation/Curatorial: As needed, revisit/revise TBMA Identity Report*

    3. Conservation/Curatorial: If applicable, revisit/revise TBMA Installation Planning Guide*

    *PLEASE NOTE: Although these document are always available for review and revision, the creation of new installations and reviewing loan requests are the most likely prompts for assessment and updates.

Lynn Putney, SAAM Associate Registrar and Emily Schlemmer, SAAM Assistant Registrar, Collections Information, presented on Time-Based Media Arts and The Museum System (TMS) at Gallery Systems Collective Imagination 2016. The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) collection of Time-Based Media Arts (TBMA) increases every year in number and complexity. Objects range from 16mm films and vintage electronic installations to digital videos, software-based artworks and video games. Customization and utilization of TMS enables collections managers to account for the volume and variety of media and equipment associated with Time-Based Media Arts. SAAM Registrars have created strategies to address the unique needs of these artworks by developing a robust cross-departmental workflow and accompanying documentation. This presentation explores SAAM's approach to handling TBMA and how TMS performs as an integral tool for success.