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Collections Alive: The Changing State of the Dutton Collection

Our guest blogger today is Amanda Qualls, volunteer in the Audience Engagement department.

The Dutton Collection, so named because it was once housed in the Jane S. Dutton Educational Resource Center (JSDERC), has undergone many changes in the past several decades. It has been moved, merged, and re-purposed many times, and it is undergoing one of those changes currently. The Dutton Collection is today comprised of individual artifacts, which are authentic or reproduction items not considered to be of museum quality, and other teaching materials. Items in the collection exemplify Asian, Oceanic, African, American, and European art and artifacts. The collection is strongest in African art, which comprises over 50% of the items.

Dutton items were originally collected, stored, and administered by staff in the Education Department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The collection consisted of both individual objects and museum kits, which contained objects, books, lesson plans, and other items supporting a theme. These items were available for loan both within and outside of the museum. In parallel with the items for loan by the Education Department, a slide library existed from 1970 onward. The slide library initially loaned slides to staff and the public, and eventually expanded to collect and lend teaching packets.

In order to check out items from the Education Department in the years before 1997, staff or patrons made an appointment to accompany an employee to the collection storage area, which was in a non-public section of the museum. The slide library was also lending items, but was located in a public area of the museum and had defined open hours.

Having these two lending programs running parallel was inefficient, and by 1994 the leaders of the Education Department identified the need to consolidate the programs. In 1996 they were able to secure funding for a new lending resources center from Jane and Ben Dutton. Jane Dutton was a 5th and 6th grade teacher, a Sustaining Life Trustee of the IMA, and a longtime member of the museum’s volunteer organization. The following year, the Jane S. Dutton Educational Resource Center opened to the public offering all objects available for loan in one location.

In February 2009, the Dutton Center was closed due to declining use and the overall economic climate. Items were redistributed and relocated. Slides, VHS, DVDs, and some other materials were absorbed into the Stout Reference Library, while the artifacts and teaching items in the Collection were taken over by the Audience Engagement Department (the new name for Education – the original holders of the material). The Dutton Collection artifacts are currently in a storage area in the staff only section of the museum. These artifacts are currently undergoing reorganization, inventory, and proposals for future use. Many of the Dutton Collection artifacts can be regularly seen on Hold It carts operated by Docent facilitators during scheduled tours and Community Days. New uses and possibilities for the items are forthcoming – more on this in the coming weeks!

The history of the Dutton Center was partially adapted from Joan M. Benedetti’s 2007 book Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press), in which Jane Ferger, then Visual Resources Librarian of JSDERC, wrote a chapter on the Dutton Center.

Filed under: Education

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