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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government

Volume VII, Issue 7 July/August 2004

Beach Sand

PDF Version

Various Technologies Used At Maine State Museum

By Kris Weeks Oliveri

Although the Maine State Museum houses artifacts collections that date back thousands of years, day-to-day operations require very modern computer applications. Collections data and organization are obvious candidates for computer use. The less obvious uses include many aspects of graphic design and exhibit planning and preparation.

Don Bassett Donald Bassett, Art Director for the museum, has used a computer for art and graphics publications for the last 12 years. He says he was "dragged kicking and screaming from his drawing board" but soon realized what a marvelous tool computers were. When a job such as a brochure, or new set of labels had to be sent out to be typeset, it might take three to five weeks for the material to come back. Errors caused the whole process to be repeated. Now most of the work is done in-house the same day, or within a week, with nearly complete control over the end product because adjustments can be made quickly. When jobs were sent out there might be six or more people involved outside of the agency. Now the work can be printed with "dummies", tested, corrected or adjusted to fit new criteria. One’s "mind’s eye" tells us something might look good but with a real sample in place we can see what the finished look approaches with 85-90% accuracy.

Before choosing the machine and programs he uses, Don surveyed the printers asking what he would need to make his job more efficient and compatible with them. Don now uses a G4 Macintosh with a medium format color printer. He uses Adobe Photoshop for manipulating photos, Adobe Illustrator for artwork and QuarkXpress for word publishing and printing. These programs produce documents that can go directly to the printers

Don also uses a PhotoLook3 scanner for high resolution scans of photos, documents or objects. He uses these for small publication scans which saves time and money again because there is no need to send these jobs out. Sometimes he still "cuts and pastes" then scans the whole to get the effect he wants. Don believes the computer he uses saves the State a minimum of five times its purchase price per year because sending the work out to be typeset and laid out is so costly and time consuming. He exclaims "To integrate art and graphics with the computer from start to finish and have near full control-ah boy!"

Scott Mosher

Another staff person, Operations Manager Scott Mosher, uses his Dell WorkStation for floor plans, designs for exhibit construction and space modification. He also started using computer-aided design about 12 years ago because he needed basic floor plans of the building. He took two courses in AutoCAD from the Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, one in 2D design and the other in 3D. In his first course, he redesigned the Museum store showing the existing space, and suggested changes in his design as overlays.

The store was expanded using Scott’s design in 1997 from 282 sq. ft. to 649 sq. ft. with 110 sq. ft. of storage space. His second course gave him the opportunity to use 3D design in Auto Walkthrough to visualize a virtual walk through of a furniture exhibit. He drew the furniture from the different periods, putting in details that made each piece recognizable and giving dimensions from the object list. When it came time to actually build the exhibit, the shop crew knew each piece would fit in the cases perfectly because it fit on the screen. He also used Lotus Approach to organize the database for the curator so that information remained after the exhibit was dismantled. Any of these designs can be exported as attachments if other museum colleagues want to see the "virtual exhibit" even though the real one no longer exists.

Scott does the space design and Don fills in the details and graphics, but their work is integrated throughout any project. The layout on the computer saves time, crews’ backs, and objects because they don’t have to be moved repeatedly. One can set up views precisely and know that they are accurate. Scott balances the length of the exhibit exposure, versus the time it takes to make it, to determine which design program to use. Scott also uses his e-mail to keep a project on track, inform outside architects, contractors or other State agencies of any needs we have. And the Internet is an incredible resource for building codes, materials searches and price comparisons.

Questions? Contact Author Kris Weeks Oliveri, who is the Coordinator of Volunteers at the Maine State Museum (since 1985) by calling 287-2302 or e-mailing

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