Arts & Health at Duke Overhauled Their Art Management System—And Tripled Art Sales in the Process

Elysian Koglmeier | November 4, 2021

Artwork from Duke University Hospital Staff Appreciation Installation. Mural panel by Sean Kirk.

Arts & Health at Duke was looking for a change in how they managed their permanent art collection for Duke University Hospital and its campus clinics.

Feeling limited by their old software provider, they made the switch to a virtual platform, Artwork Archive, so that they could better serve their communities—from patients and their families to local artists—and the impact has been astounding.

Here at Artwork Archive, we have some really impressive organizations using our software to manage their art collections. Arts & Health at Duke at Duke University Hospital is one of those outstanding art programs. 

Arts & Health at Duke has been bringing art to patients, visitors, and staff of Duke University Hospital for over 40 years. Art plays a critical role in their mission–how they care for the whole person. 

Arguably, art has been even more necessary during COVID. The creative process restores hope, dignity, and calm in hospitals. Arts & Health at Duke harnessed the power of the creative process to make a bigger impact in their healthcare ecosystem. What did they do? They stopped using their outdated CMS and instead started using Artwork Archive to bring their permanent collection online, create virtual access to rotating exhibits, and dramatically increased art sales while fundraising. 

“Our online presence with Artwork Archive was a lot more successful than we thought it could be. Now, we're busting at the seams. We're too successful.” Jennifer Collins-Mancour, Visual Arts Coordinator for Arts & Health at Duke at Duke University Hospital

We virtually sat down with Jennifer Collins-Mancour, Visual Arts Coordinator for Arts & Health at Duke at Duke University Hospital to learn how Artwork Archive helped them execute against their goals. She had much to share. 

In this case study, you’ll gain best practices for switching to an online art collection management system, advice for bringing your art program online, and strategies for boosting fundraising efforts. 

Before you switch platforms, do your research.


What collection management system did you use before Artwork Archive? 

We entered a contract with Re:Discovery Proficio in 2008. 


What didn’t work with your previous software?

Although when we first started using the system, it was leaps and bounds above what we had been doing, over time we realized it was so big and clunky. It had a lot of attributes–specifically modules–that we didn’t use. It was too large for us and it didn’t have a user-friendly interface.

We also needed the option of more than just two users. Our institution and collection is expanding. New buildings are being built, our satellite locations are increasing, and we’re replicating our arts programs.  We needed something where we could track everything in one place and have users in other locations access track artworks and data. We could not do that with our other system without a significant increase in fees.

And, a user-friendly format was necessary. 


What made you finally decide to leave your old platform? 

For us it was COVID. Although we really wanted to have a more dynamic way to share our permanent collection, we took the opportunity of this downtime to use the 14-day free trial with Artwork Archive. We uploaded a few permanent collection pieces but really found how helpful the platform could be for our rotating exhibits program. Due to restrictions on who could enter the hospital, we wanted to make sure we still had a presence without creating dissatisfaction when people could not access the building. Having the option to share the public portal beyond our walls was extremely important for us and our old system did not allow us to do that. 


What did your process of finding a new collection management system look like? 

We did a lot of research. I did my homework. It took a while.

I first went online and searched Capterra–a great resource since it is unbiased. I looked at a CMS from two different viewpoints–from a museum/institutional level, and from an art gallery. I found the vendors that have the offerings we were looking for (I knew what was important to us because I mapped it out before my research). I pulled the top 4 or 5 options and put them in a table with pros/cons, pricing, features. I trialed out the platforms and got demos. 

I also asked for recommendations. I reached out to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to ask what they were using. I tried to find other similar institutions and asked what they recommended. 

I then presented my findings to my supervisor.

Based on the research, the clear solution was Artwork Archive


Do you have any tips for other art administrators seeking a new collection management system?  

Always ask questions and be aware of hidden costs. There are a lot of hidden costs in other programs that aren’t obvious. It could be the public-facing module, tech support, onboarding, etc. When you know what questions to ask, then it’s easier to identify when vendors will charge you. 

That wasn’t the case with Artwork Archive. Their pricing is transparent and they do not charge for additional models or tech/customer support.

“There are no surprises with Artwork Archive’s pricing. You can budget and plan for your art collection. You don't have to be fearful that there will be an increase anytime. You can accurately budget for the future, which allows you to reach your goals.”

Need help brainstorming questions? Check out Artwork Archive’s Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Collection Management Solution.

Have an idea of what you want from the system and how you plan to use it. For us, having that public portal has changed our dynamic. It has opened up the opportunity to use our collection as a way to fundraise. We weren't able to do that before. Now, if we have a piece of artwork that is public, we can ascribe it to a donor and share it with our communities. 

Look for systems that allow you to grow. With a system like Artwork Archive, we were able to pursue other revenue streams from their platform. And their possibilities are endless. Artwork Archive grows with you. 

A screenshot from Arts & Health at Duke's Public Profile hosted both on Artwork Archive's Discovery and Arts & Health at Duke's website. This screenshot is from a recent exhibition, Land and Water.

Data migration doesn't have to be scary.


Why did you make the switch to Artwork Archive?

“We’re so happy we made the change to Artwork Archive.”

Artwork Archive is proactive rather than reactive. I felt like Artwork Archive was more on the cusp of technology and what was possible. At Duke, we take a proactive approach. Our old provider was reactive and only made changes when needed. 

Artwork Archive is user-friendly and easy to use. For us, the big differentiator was Artwork Archive’s functionality and attractive interface. To the arts administrators reading this, if you’ve worked in boggy systems, you know that foggy feeling you have when you enter those over-complicated systems? You need to recalibrate your brain afterward. That’s not the case with Artwork Archive. It’s actually delightful to use. The interface is fun to interact with. You don't have to get into a particular mindset when entering Artwork Archive. It's enjoyable.

We can have multiple users in our account. As the institution grows and our programming expands, this is critical for collaboration. Plus, Artwork Archive’s Activity Logs help us track what changes have been saved to our account.

We have a public portal to share our collections and sell art. We needed a place to not only showcase our permanent collection, but also a place to document all of our rotating exhibitions. 

We are not limited to physical space. If people can’t get into the building, they can still buy it by contacting us on our Artwork Archive Public Profile. I’m even telling artists to share available artwork that we are not exhibiting because our online sales are growing so quickly. 

Artwork Archive is very affordable. Cost was one of our reasons for choosing Artwork Archive. The price you quoted for us made the switch a no-brainer. Artwork Archive has everything we need (and some features we didn’t even realize we needed) at a very affordable price. Your lifetime 30% discount for nonprofits was also very appealing. 

Artwork Archive’s customer service is outstanding. Everyone on the Artwork Archive team is so easy to work with. I am also impressed by Artwork Archive’s openness to feature suggestions.

Arts & Health at Duke not only showcase the artworks in the permanent collection and in temporary exhibits, they also share out other programming like art kits and musical Artists in Residence.


How did you get all of your information into your Artwork Archive account?

Data migration doesn’t have to be scary.

Artwork Archive has a free data migration for every Organization plan.

First, we had to export our data out of Re:Discovery Proficio. The next step was to copy and paste that data into an import spreadsheet template provided by Artwork Archive. There are three templates you can use–one for artworks, another for contacts, and a third for location data. The Artwork Archive team then took the spreadsheet and used it to populate our Artwork Archive account. 

Even though the thought of migrating over 4,000 records and associated images was daunting, the customer service team was right there to help every step of the way.


Do you have any advice for those planning to migrate their data? 

For many, the thought of switching collection management systems could be considered too overwhelming. But, I have to say that taking the time working with the Artwork Archive team on getting our files formatted correctly for migration was definitely worth it. 

I have to admit I was scared before I started the migration, but the process was clearly organized step by step and the Artwork Archive team patiently walked me through it. People don't need to be scared. You don't feel like you are going to screw something up when you click a button. 


You uncovered some hidden data in the migration process. Can you tell us about that?

Not only did we migrate over to a more transparent system, but we also discovered a lot of old data in the process. There was a lot of information I did not know we had because it was so hidden and segregated in our old system. It wasn’t until we had to clean up our data and enter it into the Artwork Archive spreadsheet that I realized we had data that we had never seen. There were modules that no one was trained on or that could not be accessed beyond that first user. It was the first time I’d seen the data. The process revealed a lot of what I did not know we had. 

Learn how an online CMS can help you collaborate, save time, and easily showcase your artwork.


How does Artwork Archive help you manage your art collection and support you as an arts administrator?

A lot of what I have to say is around the management of our exhibitions. 

Track temporary exhibits: Before we started the migration of our permanent collection, we started documenting all of our current rotating exhibits. 

And now we are so happy to be able to share our Permanent Collection– providing a much more engaging experience for our patients, visitors and staff.

Save time: In the past, we weren't able to document the exhibits as we can now with Artwork Archive. It took a lot more dedicated hours to document an exhibit in the past. Now it's really easy. Plus, I'm able to generate exhibition reports quickly, which helps support our supervisors and their managers. 

Advocate for our program: In our exhibits, we don’t take a commission, but we do ask artists to donate back to the program based on their sales (which is tax-deductible). We can track that in Artwork Archive. We can pull a report with real numbers in real time. 

Cut back on administrative tasks: One thing that we really love, especially for rotating exhibits, is that artists can upload their artworks and images directly into our Artwork Archive account. That saves a lot of time.

Plus, when the onus is on the artist to make it right, they get it right. How do we do it? I put together a how-to PDF that walks the artists through the simple process. Through Artwork Archive, we provide the artists with a password a few weeks before the show. They submit the artwork and information via their form online. The team reviews it. We then assign those pieces to an exhibit and then it's there–viewable by the public. Even better–we can make any deletions or changes to the exhibition and can do that all on the backend before it goes public. Also, we can respond to queries and post-sales in real-time. 

Fundraise! The response to our online exhibits has been truly incredible. Requests for purchasing artwork have increased dramatically.


A screenshot from Winterfest's virtual presence where you can iniquire about or purchase a piece. 


How has Artwork Archive helped you implement a large project? 

We're using Artwork Archive to manage and showcase our annual Winterfest Craftsman exhibit. This year we have works by 21 artists. We are taking in over 1,500 items with a value of $55,000. It's an open call. The makers have to go through a selection process. 

Here is how we used Artwork Archive for the call. 

  • Artists contacted me of their interest to apply and I provided them a time-sensitive password.

  • The artists then uploaded all of their works for us to review. 

  • When I was notified by Artwork Archive that an artist uploaded records, I added the submitted artists to a Group name (Winterfest). 

  • I created PDF reports of all the items submitted and shared them with our panel and from them, we made our selections.

  • I added the pieces that were selected to the collection “Winterfest 2021”.

  • Then I created a report for every selected craftsperson–telling them what we selected and the quantities requested. 

  • I documented inventory numbers in the system for the items. 

  • All of the pieces will be displayed on our Public Profile (after November 1st) where buyers can view all the offerings and inquire about purchases.

  • And now we can now track sales and generate weekly reports to the artist. 

Before using Artwork Archive, this all had to be done using various platforms. Now it's all managed in one place. Plus, we have an online presence!

Our artists are also thrilled with Artwork Archive’s tools. 

Artists are blown away. They love that we can advertise their exhibit to a wider public and people can inquire about specific pieces. They are happy to upload the information because they know that it will be seen. And this goes for artworks that aren’t exhibited.


What other Artwork Archive features do you find useful?

Wow, there are so many. Here are three that are top of mind:

Interactive map: We are starting to use the map feature on the Public Profile. Not only are we able to share pieces that are in our collection that are public, but this map will help people locate the art within our large campuses.

Maintenance tracking & Schedule: I include our conservator’s recommendations within the Maintenance feature. This was very helpful recently when we were cleaning our Calder mobile; I saved the advised treatment and now can access it whenever I need it. 

We have pieces on loan at other departments within the university, so the combination of the maintenance tool with the Schedule helps cue me on things I might otherwise forget. I set reminders for when I need to renew a loan agreement or for when a work needs to be returned. It’s also helpful for exhibitions. I enter our exhibition start and end dates. I love how I can easily see what’s coming up for the week.

Arts & Health at Duke utilizes the Interactive Map to help community members find and navigate to particular artworks throughout campus. 


Has anything surprised you throughout this process? 

Our online presence with Artwork Archive was a lot more successful than we thought it could be. Now, we're busting at the seams. We're too successful.

We initially changed our collection management system to organize and promote our permanent collection. But, when we realized that we could use it for our temporary art exhibit and make sales, that took off. We’ve increased our sales in such a short amount of time. We’re constantly responding to queries for the temporary shows. 

We use the QR code labels generated from Artwork Archive. We prominently display the QR codes so that people can see the entire exhibition online and share it with others. 

In the last exhibit we had, the artist displayed 16 pieces and we sold 10. Three of the buyers were not from the hospital. The artist had the link to their exhibit online and she put it in an email to a professional group she was in. Later, I received queries through Artwork Archive, “I don’t work a Duke but can I come in and see the pieces?” So I met them and brought them to the artworks. We’ve had a number of out-of-state purchases. Some of the buyers have seen the online exhibits and artists are working directly with them to ship pieces out of state..

People are responding more to our Artwork Archive links than to our website because it's a much more dynamic platform. We've even gotten queries that aren't related to our visual art program. We’re getting feedback about our performing arts program through Artwork Archive as well. 


All in all, we are extremely satisfied. 

Artwork Archive is extremely user-friendly and has so many useful features that have already increased the visibility of our permanent and rotating exhibits. Artist profitability has increased dramatically since we implemented Artwork Archive. And sharing information is so much easier than our old system.

Want to see what all of the excitement is about? Schedule a quick demo of Artwork Archive.

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