The Watermill Center was founded by the American artist Robert Wilson as a Laboratory for Performance. Resident artists and scholars create experimental works in a unique environment, living and working alongside a collection of art and artifacts spanning the history of humankind.
We borrow language from the science laboratory to describe what happens here – incubate, experiment, research. Our new library design supports these dynamic pursuits. A new building will expand our fluid research, exhibition, and performance spaces. A robust digital library will support and amplify this multidisciplinary environment where artists and visitors learn by doing.
Our digital initiative describes projects created on site within the context of: a collection of global art and artifacts; a digital archive documenting new works created on site; the archives of artist Robert Wilson and his collaborators; and a supporting research collection of books, media, and online databases.The Watermill Center itself operates as a work of art, one that is constantly changing as new objects are added to the collection and rearranged. In this site-specific installation, many unexpected narratives arise. We aim to promote this experience of discovery and surprise in our organization of the library online.
Rather than silo the information describing each of these collections, we are creating dynamic links to allow for creative relationships and exploration. To this end, we have developed local ontologies and are testing tools for discovery. We describe both performance works and objects in CollectionSpace, an open source collection management system. Community feedback has contributed a new scheme which allows us to track the use of collections. From CollectionSpace, we are syncing to a rich collection of digital images which amplify the works described. These are managed within Piction, a digital asset management.
We are still working in the data and systems design phase of our project. A future goal is to add an interactive design layer to allow participants to arrange and annotate content. Visual browsing and associations will be our normative method of search. At The Watermill Center, there is a clear and formal structure. Within that structure, everything changes. Everything is possible.