We are delighted to be partners with Articheck, a condition reporting app founded by a former paper conservator, Annika Erikson, around the same time that Vastari was founded. We recently had a conversation with Annika about why and how she started Articheck, and what’s new with the company today.

What made you decide to walk away from your job as a conservator and start your own tech company?

I first came up with idea Articheck during my time working as a paper conservator for Tate. Everything was done on paper and I came to realise I was spending all my time filling out an inordinate amount of paperwork and not being able to give enough of my time to the practical side of conservation. We would export a template from the CMS, print it out, stuff it into plastic sleeves in binders and wheel trolleys full of binders to the galleries, then handwrite the reports and take digital images, which lives separately from the paper reports on a network folder after being uploaded and filed. As you can imagine this was very time-consuming!

In the commercial sector, which I later worked in, even more time would be spent having to make the condition reports more polished for the client. At that point I thought there must be a better way of doing this, and if there isn’t I will create one!

How has Articheck addressed those pain points from traditional condition reporting?

Articheck takes the old process - paper, camera, computer - and puts it all into a single digital process, custom-designed for condition reporting. With our IOS app and supporting web-based portal, you can take photos and annotate the damages with icons, directly on screen, with the option of multiple shapes and styles. Once you’ve taken pictures and added condition notes, you hit an “Upload” button, which automatically generates a polished PDF with the client’s logo. It completely eliminates the admin work I had to go through: importing my pictures, filing them, typing my notes, scanning my notes, printing out a photo and marking it up, formatting images and text boxes in Word... It’s so much easier, you can finish everything in front of the artwork.

You’re a trained conservator, but who else uses Articheck?

My co-founder Jennifer Hefner has a background in registration, so between our areas of expertise, and also calling on industry specialists from other conservation, museum, gallery, and shipping backgrounds, we were able to create a versatile tool that could be used by the whole art industry, whether you’re an art handler making a quick incoming check at a gallery, or a conservator writing a detailed treatment report. It’s designed in a modular format - we’ve tried to strike a balance between promoting consistency and standardisation, while also giving users the flexibility to customise their reports depending on the situation.

What challenges and successes have you experienced running a tech start-up?

Translating an idea into an app is always going to have its challenges, but it’s so satisfying to see it all come together. Recently, we’ve had more and more people approach us and say, “I saw one of your reports and was really impressed,” and then they sign up for themselves. In the early days, a lot of people were reluctant to be the first mover, or try something that hasn’t been widely adopted by their peers, but that’s changing a lot now that we’re more established. We have a list of noteworthy clients across the industry and geographic locations, and our strongest message is through word of mouth. We recently hit 100,000 reports made on Articheck, which was an exciting milestone!

What plans do you have for the future of Articheck?

We are constantly listening to clients requests and feedback, so in that sense we are always evolving and responding to the needs of the art industry. In terms of specific plans for the future, we will be looking at integrating with more inventory management systems as well as incorporating the latest technology to improve the user interface on our web portal. We’re currently focusing on making it really easy to share a report from one institution to another for traveling exhibitions and loans, something that’s particularly relevant for Vastari members!

Make sure to visit Articheck on their website here.