Joplin, MO (SNS) – A nearly yearlong process of cataloging Missouri Southern State University’s African art holdings has resulted in the creation of an online, searchable database of the collection.

The works – more than 300 in total – had been confined in a small storage area in the art building. Because they were not stored properly, many of the pieces needed to be carefully cleaned.

“Only about a fourth of the collection had been documented properly, so there was also further research to be conducted,” said Christine Bentley, head of the Art Department. “We also needed to find an archivally-sound location. Quite a bit of time went into the project.”

The works that constitute the basis for the collection of African art and artifacts were presented to the university by John and Pam Finley in 1997. Other contributors included Marianna Keown, Vivian Olson, Guy Mace and Ben Pickard.

In July 2014, staff members from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas-Lawrence visited Missouri Southern to view the collection and offer recommendations about how best to catalog and preserve it.

The project, said Bentley, proved to be a time-consuming effort.

“We started off with three students last summer during the beginning stages,” she said. “We had a Gallery Studies class in the fall that started assessing the condition of each object and started the collection care reports. There was another class of 10 students who helped, as well as art history faculty and a contract worker who worked on the entries.”

Each entry in the online database contains photos of each work from different views, a description, its place of origin and provenance. Despite the year of work that has gone into collecting and compiling this information, there’s still much work to be done, said Bentley.

“Gallery Studies students have some further research to do on a couple of the pieces. We also have to tag each piece so that each one matches the number in the catalog. It will be time consuming,” she said.

Funding for the project was made available through the university and private donations. The collection is currently stored on campus in an area where temperature and humidity can be carefully regulated. Bentley said she is still looking for a permanent location in which to house it.

To view the collection online, visit