Digitizing Holdings for Posterity and Record Keeping. Case Study: Cheri Blum Estate
It’s all about storytelling. Well, and record keeping. Full Circle Archive Digitization recently helped the Blum family digitize the output of Cheri Blum, a painter who died in 2003 at the age of 34. Blum was fortunate to be able to make a living doing what she loved, creating beautiful, serene landscapes and still lifes of flowers and vegetation. Her images have been licensed and used for commercial products and home décor since the late 1990s. Her images appear in all sorts of ways: on wallpaper, rugs, wall décor, cabinets handles, drawer pulls, and more. Chris Blum, the artist’s brother, manages the estate and says that at one point in the early 2000s, seemingly half of all Americans had products in their homes featuring Cheri’s images.
The hallmark of Blum’s work is the sense of both old and new that is achieved by painting on linen prepared with a cracked surface. The results look equally as if they could be found in pre-eruption Pompeii as well as the quaintest cottage on the New England coast. The artist herself said, “My goal is to take the fine art aspect of the Old Masters and combine it with a worn handcrafted look that suits today’s styles. I love to find unusual painting surfaces and create something from nothing.”
The family has retained possession of almost all of Cheri’s paintings. Last spring, Chase Blum, the artist’s nephew who was home from the University of Maryland due to the pandemic, took on the task of finding the right imaging studio to create a digital archive of the paintings. Full Circle Archive Digitization offered the right services at the right price and work began. Only a handful of Blum’s paintings had been sold during her lifetime and getting them back on loan for photography took some doing. In the end, however, 484 paintings were digitized for posterity.
Inheriting and managing an artist’s estate is no laughing matter; there is a lot to keep track of. The crucial starting point is good photography of the objects, which enables accurate record keeping and conservation tracking of the condition of the works of art. Good images are a key factor in a full accounting of an estate’s contents. In fact, good photography has become mandatory for a collection of any size whether a corporate or public collection or an artist’s estate.