Making the Video: A Behind-the-Lens Look at “A Global Icon: Mary in Context”

These days, everything seems to be going digital. Artwork is no exception to this change, and museums are taking notice.

With its first online exhibition, NMWA has joined other museums in embracing digital technology. A Global Icon: Mary in Context, complements the museum’s exhibition Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea, now on view in the galleries. Through detailed images and videos, the online exhibition explores the portrayal of the Virgin Mary in artworks from around the world.


Photography by Laura Hoffman

As the fall 2014 semester’s digital media intern, I was tasked with creating a series of six short videos for the online exhibition, delving into each thematic section plus an introductory video. Despite my past production experience, I wasn’t sure how shooting and editing seven videos would be possible with my two-day-per-week schedule and in less than three months’ time. However, with a plan of action and system of support, I was able to complete them just in time for the exhibition opening.


Photography by Laura Hoffman

For each shoot, we would set up the camera, microphones, chairs, and lights (always bringing extra lights in case one unexpectedly popped) hours before the museum opened to avoid capturing background noise from visitors. Despite our best efforts, sounds—from the *ding* of an elevator door to an ambulance’s blaring siren—would interrupt the shooting. The video’s museum-staff narrators would recite each line of the script at least three times to ensure one usable take.


Photography by Laura Hoffman

During this process, I began editing, piecing together the filmed footage with artwork images and music. At times, keeping track of the hours of footage, image positions, and potential music options was the most challenging part of the editing stage. Conversations between the digital engagement team, curators, and myself involved meticulous reviewing: Did an image move across the screen too quickly? Would panning across rather than zooming in flatter the artwork best? When should the music fade in and out so as to enhance the viewing experience?

By the end of my three-month internship, all seven videos had been exported and uploaded to the online exhibition, available through YouTube. When I walk into the introductory gallery on the museum’s ground level, I take pride in seeing the videos displayed on the installed iPads. It is exciting to see NMWA using technological innovations both on its gallery walls and through the digital realm.

—Dorothea Trufelman was the fall 2014 digital media intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Explore the full online exhibition, and plan your visit to Picturing Mary, on view at NMWA through April 12.

Have you seen the new Clara?

Clara® is NMWA’s unique interactive database containing authoritative information on women visual artists of all time periods and nationalities. The database started as an index for our extensive Archives on Women Artists, but quickly took on a life all its own. We have been working hard to realize the full potential of such a database, and to make it a valuable academic resource for the public. About two months ago, our newest version of Clara® went live. We at NMWA fondly refer to her as “Clara® 2.0,” and she is faster, stronger, more streamlined, and a little more visually pleasing than her predecessor. I’d like to take you on a little tour of what’s new in Clara® 2.0.

First of all, let’s talk about the feature that has many of us NMWA employees crying tears of joy: Speed. Clara® 2.0 is much, much faster. It used to take up to a full minute for Clara® to search for and deliver your results. Now it takes mere seconds! You can imagine what a big difference this makes in usability and convenience, especially for people (like certain NMWA employees) who use the database quite heavily. But enough about us, let’s talk about you.


We have the technology and we have rebuilt her. Better than she was before. Better, stronger, faster. (Steve Austin, eat your heart out!)

Every time you visit Clara®, you will find a different artist featured on the front page as well as a number of artists highlighted to the lower right of the page. Also, if you like you can now create an account in Clara® with your own unique login; this feature allows you to bookmark your favorite artists in the database. In addition, Clara® has been outfitted with a nifty glossary feature. While reading through artist profiles, you may come across a word or term that is underlined. If you hover your cursor over the underlined term, a box containing the definition will appear. Still present is the ability to search for artists with a number of filters, including nationality, medium, artistic role, etc. You can narrow your search to include only complete and expanded profiles, or limit your results to the artists that are in NMWA’s collection.

If you are a teacher, you will appreciate the large, prominently displayed “Teacher Resources” link near the top of the page. This aptly named section contains lesson plans and other teacher and student resources created by NMWA staff (specifically our wonderous Department of Education). These resources are searchable by theme, grade level, and subject area. Click here to see an example lesson plan on Latina Artists. Each lesson plan has its own page, complete with links to related artists and examples of relevant artwork, and usually comes with a downloadable pdf file of the lesson plan. There are only a few lesson plans currently posted, but we expect this to change as the Department of Education is able to create and post new ones.

Another wonderful new feature of the database is that NMWA now has the capability to upload very high resolution digitized versions of archival documents to Clara® for the public’s (that means You!) researching pleasure. I have seen this feature in action and I can tell you it’s really, really cool. You can zoom so close to the document that you can discern every little detail–creases, stains, every dotted “I” and crossed “t”–all without ever leaving your computer! Unfortunately, we have been unable to digitize and upload archival documents for public consumption thus far due to a shortage in funding and manpower. But don’t despair! We are furiously applying for grants left and right; we will eventually be able to take full advantage of this feature. In the meantime, just be aware that we have the technology and we’re working on it.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find Clara® a useful resource and have fun exploring the new features. If you missed the links above, you can visit the database at

About the Author: Brianna Benesh is the Digital Media Coordinator at NMWA.