by Pat O’Donnell
It began with a student. In the summer of 2010, Isa St. Clair ’11, a theatre major with a minor in classics, began work at Friends Historical Library. Almost immediately, she inquired about an Etruscan vase sitting on a shelf in the Reading Room. Isa had spent the previous two summers at the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project in Tuscany and had no problem recognizing Etruscan pottery.
Her interest and expertise met a need of Friends Historical Library. In addition to Quaker and Swarthmore College records, Friends Historical Library oversees collections of Benjamin West drawings, Arthur B. Davis prints, and classical artifacts. Although the existence of the West drawings and Davis prints were known to specialists in art history, most people are unaware these treasures existed at Swarthmore. There are existing check-lists of these collections, but trying to describe an unnamed Benjamin West sketch in words is rarely satisfying. Users want to see an image.
Triarte currently includes 26,000 objects from Special Collections at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and Haverford. Access to this online resource is limited to the TriCollege community and is used for both classes and research. Triarte is powered by a customized version of EmbARK Web Kiosk by Gallery Systems.
The Benjamin West drawings were the first priority because of the current revival of interest in West’s work by museums and scholars. Isa scanned each image and entered the available data into Excel. She concluded with a collection of about 500 Greek and Roman coins, drawing on her knowledge and love of classical art and artifacts. She was so engaged in the project, that she returned to the library for a week following her graduation to finish the last of the cataloging. Nick Gettino ’13 completed the Davies scanning in late May. With guidance from Susan Dreher and Pat O’Donnell, the Excel database was uploaded and the images transferred. Swarthmore’s holdings in these three collections were seen for the first time during the summer. Users can access them on campus at http://triarte.brynmawr.edu or off-campus via EZProxy or VPN.
Friends Historical Library will continue the arts project over the course of the next two years, using the knowledge and expertise of Swarthmore students. Future additions to Triarte include Greek and Roman pottery, 18th and 19th century Quaker maps, and, in cooperation with the Art Department, an inventory of the college’s collections of fine and decorative arts.