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. …