Looking for Good Art: Web Resources and Image Databases: Part One: General and U.S. Tools
Mattison, David, Searcher
Art images on the Web represent one of the first and last frontiers in terms of pools of knowledge: millions of historic art images served and more to come. Guides to art resources are legion. Almost every university and college that teaches art or art history seems to devote some portion of its faculty or departmental Web site to art resources on the Web. Academic libraries, especially those connected to art galleries or art museums, often maintain subject guides to art and art history. Projects initiated by art librarian members of the Visual Resources Association (VRA) [http://www.vraweb.org], the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS) [http://www.arlisna.org/], and ARLIS organizations around the world have implemented visual databases comprised of cataloged artwork accompanied by a digital image. Both the VRA and ARLIS/NA maintain sites describing members' online image databases [http: //www.vraweb.org/memberwebsites.htm) [http:// www.chatham.edu/users/staff/dnolting/images.html]. In cooperation with the IFLA Section of Art Libraries, ARLIS/NA and other art library organizations help establish and maintain the International Directory of Art Libraries [http://artlibrary.vassar.edu/ifla-idal/]. The directory, however, specifically omits "slide, photograph, and other exclusively visual resource collections."
Drawing upon networking technology, newer standards such as OAI (Open Archives Initiative) and specialized metadata vocabularies and rules developed by or with the support of the Getty Research Institute, the Web universe of digital art resources shows no sign of slowing down or peaking. In late May 2004, for example, Visual Collections: Images of Art, History and Culture [http://www.davidrumsey. com/collections/] from David Rumsey and Cartography Associates was unveiled.
Many countries struggle with copyright issues when it comes to displaying art reproductions on the Web. For example, the Swiss site, Arte24 [http://www.arte24.ch], notes," The images of art and cultural objects from Swiss museums are not available at the moment due to copyright problems." Academic institutions attempting to comply with the complexities of copyright law take a variety of approaches to the display of digitized art images, ranging from campus-only or proxy server access by authorized faculty, staff, and students to full public access. Some academic museums and galleries provide thumbnail catalogs for general public access, following an approach taken by the AMICO Consortium. Cultural institutions throughout the world commonly use the practice of digital water-marking of images. For current information on art image copyright, mainly from a U.S. perspective, see Copyright & Art Issues [http://uoregon.edu/~csundt/copyweb/], compiled by Christine L. Sundt, visual resources curator, University of Oregon. You can find other perspectives and links on copyright and art images through the VRA Intellectual Property Rights Committee [http://www.arthist. umn.edu/slides/IPR] and IFLANET's (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) Information Policy: Copyright and Intellectual Property [http:// www.ifla.org/II/cpyright.htm].
My limited exploration of art image databases did not include some of the catalog raisonne and art census projects, undoubtedly significant to art historians, such as the subscription-based and Internet-accessible Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance [http://www.dyabola.de/en/projects/detail/ cen.htm]. I will focus on publicly available, though not necessarily always authoritative, online art image sites. I passed up standard, subscription-based reference works such as the Grove Art Online (based on the 34-volume Dictionary of Art; Oxford University Press, 1996) [http://www.groveart. com] and Princeton University's Index of Christian Art [http://ica.princeton.edu]. At least one contemporary fine arts gateway, Artnet.com [http://www.artnet.com], provides free, licensed access to selected Grove Art Online content, including historical art, in the form of Artists' Biographies, Materials and Techniques, and Styles and Movements.
I will chiefly deal with digitized, original historical Western (European and North American) art images of any nonphotographic medium prior to the 20th century found in cultural institutions or on private sites. I've ignored commercial art and illustration, as well as architectural images. My intent was to create a kind of virtual "grand tour" of Western art, mainly from English-language sources, and to survey and sample the largest and best historical art from institutions and private sites in North America and Europe. I consulted many art history subject guides and gateways, relying chiefly on those compiled by art historians or art librarians. Due to space limitations, I've had to leave out many other kinds of resources, some of which I've summarized in the sidebar at left, "It's All Art: Other Search Spots for Online Art Images."
Reference Sources, Subject Guides, and Gateways to Art Resources
Resource guides are particularly useful as starting points, describing content and organization, site maintenance, selectiveness, search tools, and sometimes the qualifications of site editors. Most of these guides refer to one another. Link rot (dead links) may affect your assessment of these sites. I've arranged them by their origin (academic or librarian, commercial, and private) and their focus on museums or art galleries.
Academic, Librarian, Commercial, and Private Art History Guides
* For ease of use and organization, look first at The Digital Librarian by Margaret Vail Anderson [http://www. digital-librarian.com], particularly in the Images and the Art pages.
* Sweet Briar College (Virginia) art history professor Chris Witcombe's Art History Resources on the Web [http://witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHLinks.html], "online since October 24, 1995," will lead you through the time, place, and types of artistic expression in a well-developed, clear taxonomy. It's one of the most referenced art history guides I came across. Even with a basic, but good navigational interface, I found the lack of a search engine for such a comprehensive and near-decade-old resource an odd omission.
* The University of Michigan's Mother of All Art and Art History Links Page [http://www.art-design.umich. edu/mother/] sports a top-level section titled Image Collections and Online Art. All the pages of this guide contain annotated links organized into categories relevant to the section topic.
* At Boston College, Jeffery Howe's Art on the Web [http:// www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/Artweb.html] boasts more than 1,200 art and architecture links, including a section devoted to Image Collections.
* The University of California, Davis, University Library's Art and Art History guide [http://www.lib.ucdavis. edu/hss/art/AAHIndex.htm] offers a well-rounded set of Selected Internet Resources in Art and Art History arranged in four broad categories.
* The Art History Webmasters Association des webmestres en histoire de l'artthat (AHWA-AWHA) [http:// www.unites.uqam.ca/AHWA/] was founded by Canadian art history Professor Robert Derome, Universite du Quebec Montreal, in 1997. Although the AHWA-AWHA disbanded in 2003, Professor Derome continues to maintain the Index of Art History Departments' Websites Around the World [http://www.unites.uqam.ca/dhistart/]. Other academic-related sites that will help you find art image databases include ARTHIST, the H-NET Information Network for Art History [http://www.arthist.net); and links to the Kunstgeschichte: Institut & Verbande weltweit (Art History: Institutes and Associations Around the World) [http://www.khist.unizh.ch/KgInstis.html] compiled by Dr. Thomas …
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Publication information: Article title: Looking for Good Art: Web Resources and Image Databases: Part One: General and U.S. Tools. Contributors: Mattison, David - Author. Magazine title: Searcher. Volume: 12. Issue: 8 Publication date: September 2004. Page number: 12+. © 1999 Information Today, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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