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So You've Acquired An Artwork...Now What?

Ever wonder about the decision-making involved in choosing when, where, and how our artworks go on view?

Once Crystal Bridges acquires an artwork, there are several questions that need to be answered before it can be displayed in the galleries. Several departments at the museum each have their own set of responsibilities to make sure the artwork is properly presented, protected, and interpreted for guests.

Let’s take a look at this recent acquisition as an example.

Jason Bard Yarmosky , Wintered Fields, 2016 , Oil on canvas , 72 x 144 in. , Courtesy of the artist

Jason Bard Yarmosky , Wintered Fields, 2016 , Oil on canvas , 72 x 144 in. , Courtesy of the artist

Wintered Fields by Jason Yarmosky was acquired earlier this year by Crystal Bridges after it made an appearance in the Men of Steel, Women of Wonder exhibition. It will return to the museum after the exhibition’s run at the Addison Gallery in Massachusetts.

Before Wintered Fields can go on view, here are some of the questions each department needs to consider:



The Curatorial department chooses when and where artworks go on view and is the content expert on the artwork. This staff considers:

  • What concepts drive the work?
  • What has previously been written about this work?
  • Since the museum has shown this work in an exhibition before, can we draw on previous research or reach out to Yarmosky for additional insight?
  • Where will the work be displayed in the galleries and why in that location?



The Interpretation department works to create context for the guests. This staff considers:

  • What does the viewer need to know to better understand and appreciate the work and artist?
  • Have other audiences seen it, and what were those responses like?
  • Is it part of a larger section that has a theme, and how might this work fit within that theme?


Collections Management

The Collections Management team stores, cares for, and installs works of art. This staff considers:

  • Has Collections Management received a formal request from a curator for the artwork to be displayed?
  • When can the installation of the work be scheduled?
  • Is the label information, credit line, and image credit listed on the wall label correct?
  • How will we transport the artwork to the gallery?
  • Are light levels appropriate for the artwork media?


Guide Program

The Crystal Bridges Guide Program trains and oversees volunteers who conduct tours of the galleries, outdoor sculptures, architecture, and the trails. This staff considers:

  • Where will this work be placed? (Can a group of 15—the size of a group tour—gather in the space?)
  • How does the subject matter, artist, and time period of the work fit within the tour?
  • While incorporating this work into a tour discussion, we would consider asking guests: Who is this person? Why are they dressed like a superhero? What is the significance of the setting?


Protection Services

The Protection Services security team is responsible for keeping visitors, the art, the building, and the grounds safe. This staff considers:

  • Is a security presence expected during installation?
  • Do we own the work? If not, can it be photographed?
  • Are guests allowed to touch it?
  • Does the work have to be in view of a member of security staff at all times?


School Programs

The School Programs team hosts K-12 students on curriculum-relevant tours. This staff considers:

  • Is the work appropriate for K-12 audiences?
  • Is the work relatable to school children?
  • How will it resonate with them?
  • What is the historical and contemporary context behind what the artist is saying in the work?
  • How can students get the content of the artwork organically through observation and conversation?


Access and Inclusion

The Access and Inclusion department works to ensure all people are able to enjoy the museum. This staff considers:

  • What is the spacing around the object (for guests who use a wheelchair or a family using a stroller)?
  • What multisensory materials will help guests further engage with this object (twine, paper bag, etc), and are these materials permitted in the galleries?
  • What is the best way to describe this object verbally for guests who experience it using senses other than sight? Would it be helpful to create a detailed verbal description to share aloud with guests?



See you at the museum!