Cincinnati Museum Center adds new Curator of Photographs, Prints and Media

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) announced today the hiring of its new Curator of Photographs, Prints & Media. Arabeth Balasko brings 18 years of experience to CMC’s collections of more than one million photographs, films, sound recordings and prints. Balasko will take the lead on new and ongoing research projects while also working to digitize CMC’s photography and audiovisual collections that date back nearly 180 years.

In her role, Balasko will be instrumental in creating inclusive, up-to-date strategies for collecting and preserving visual culture that can help accurately, inclusively tell and illustrate our region’s history. She has worked previously with large and small organizations, including with Tribal Nation partners, to organize archives and address out-of-date language used to describe and name photograph subjects, a skill that will help CMC update its own archives to acknowledge how the process of history continues to evolve. Balasko will also play a key role in ongoing exhibit and program development as part of CMC’s curatorial team. Her experience in digital asset management systems will allow CMC to better organize its photography and visual media collections and make them more accessible to others.

“I am truly looking forward to helping Cincinnati Museum Center usher this collection into the present day,” said Balasko. “My goal is to ensure that all users feel seen and represented in our collection scope. Diverse perspective matter. As a community-based collection, it is vital that people feel empowered to become involved, invested and part of the collecting process. By uplifting and encouraging the sharing of stories, voices and various community viewpoints, we all win. I am honored to be joining a team of dedicated people striving to make the humanities a more inclusive place.”

Balasko joins CMC after six years as an archival and historical consultant, where she focused on establishing best practices, setting up and developing collection spaces and cataloging archival accession, including both digital and physical collections. She also spent time at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, where she oversaw over 1 million archival images, and with the Arlington Public Library in Virginia where, as the county’s first digital archivist, she managed over 30.5 TB of digitized content. Balasko has experience in several historical and preservation institutions, including the Preservation Society of Newport County, Greenbrier Historical Society and the North House Museum, the University of Massachusetts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Balasko is a graduate of West Virginia University with degrees in international studies, history and Russian culture and language and earned a master’s degree in history and archives from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“Arabeth’s deep knowledge, skill in caring for archives and collections and experience working with a broad range of partners and institutions will add critical strength to our collections and research team,” said Whitney Owens, chief learning officer at Cincinnati Museum Center. “Learning from history helps us make progress toward justice, and Arabeth’s leadership will help us explore how images of our past and present can broaden our perspectives. We look forward to what Arabeth will help us accomplish.”

Balasko is a member of the Society of American Archivists and the Board of Directors for the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. She has been involved in several trade and historical publications, including The Dawn of the Great Archival Shift, Women’s Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence, 19th Century Watering Holes: From Infirmary to Social Itinerary and The Memory Keeper: Analyzing the Importance of Collecting and Preserving Oral Histories in a Twenty-First Century University Archival Repository.

CMC’s photographs, prints and media collections encompass more than one million pieces, including:
6 million feet of 8mm, 16mm and 25mm motion picture film
800,000 photographs, the earliest dating back to the 1840s. Less than 1% of the photographs in the collection are in color
300,000 videotapes, of which nearly half are in black and white
400,000 sound recordings, including 16” radio transcription discs, 45 and 33 1/3 rpm records, ¼” magnetic analog tapes and compact discs
6,000 postcards
5,000 prints, including lithographs, World War I and World War II posters, circus advertisements and more

Among the collection highlights are news footage from local TV and radio stations, more than 300 images from 19th-century African American photographer J.P. Ball, more than 6,000 negatives and prints from photographer Paul Briol, 30,000 prints and negatives from photographer Daniel Ransohoff on social conditions and relief agencies in Cincinnati between 1930 and 1980 and the Felix J. Koch collection.

For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org

Arabeth Balasko

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