Article: Creating a Living Legacy #9: Budgeting

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Artist Trust is working to expand the awareness, discussion and management related to archiving and documenting artwork through the support of Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) program. The following information is excerpted from the CALL program’s support materials and provided as a resource for visual artists seeking legacy planning and archiving information.

Setting up a comprehensive inventory system can involve a range of associated costs. In particular, many archival materials can be especially pricey. Frequently when one starts considering what supplies to purchase for archiving, it can be overwhelming to consider the potential expenses. However, by building out a budget you can develop a system that works for you without going broke.

Here are areas where expenses can arise. In addition there are listed recommendations for mitigating expenses.


Getting help in the archiving process can be the most expensive part of it. It is also the most valuable for many artists who simply have too much work to sort through on their own. Consider what options you have for getting interns, bartering or getting a group of friends or family to help you on a specific project.


Many artists have to take on new spaces simply for storing artwork. When putting the work in storage you need to consider a few things. How often will you want to get access to the work? If you live in a city, storage can frequently be more expensive in the city then storage a short drive outside of the city. You also need to consider whether the work is safe. It may be tempting to store everything in a friend’s barn, however rodents are a threat.

Storage Materials/Containers:

Flat files are needed for storing works on paper and photographs. Though you can store much of that work in portfolios or boxes, there is a point that the metal flat file is safer in terms of protecting your artwork. When shopping for a flat file consider keeping your eye on your local craigslist to see who is selling what. When considering purchasing archival boxes for everything, also consider building your own out of museum board and tape. Much of your archival materials can be kept safely in simple plastic bins.


A new computer, scanner and digital camera can all add up. These are tools that you need in this day and age, especially if you are developing any sort of a website. Ask your friends for recommendations of affordable cameras to purchase. Consider buying things second hand at a reputable dealer.


Software programs such as Photoshop can be prohibitively expensive for the individual artist. If you are affiliated with an educational institution you may be eligible for a discount. Other options are freeware programs available on the web. These are programs that are developed for people to use for free. Programs such as Picassa might offer you the basic editing for digital images that you need, versus all the options that Photoshop has.

Consider your time:

It can be a choice between spending your time working on this, or spending your time working on proposals for projects. Consider whether it is the best use of your time for you to do all the work, or if you need to hire someone to help.