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Magazines > Searcher > November/December 2004
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Vol. 12 No. 10 — Nov/Dec 2004
FEATURE
Looking for Good Art
Part 3: Glorious National Collections

by David Mattison
Access Archivist, British Columbia Archives, Royal BC Museum Corporation
[Part 1][Part 2]

With an unimaginable wealth of art digitally accessible and preserved for us and future generations by art history institutions outside the U.S., the international Web of the Western art world is truly one of the most remarkable achievements of our digital age. Some of the greatest art museums beyond the U.S. offer continuous virtual exhibits and, more importantly for the virtual traveler, excellent visual databases of their art treasures. Over the past decade the European Union, which expanded its member states to 25 in June 2004, has funded numerous digital culture research and development initiatives, some confined to individual EU states, and others in partnerships between EU states or with other international input. The EU's CORDIS (Community Research & Development Information Service) [http://www.cordis.lu/] is the primary resource for learning about past and current R&D projects involving art. As part of its eEurope program, the
EU's DigiCult (Digital Heritage and Cultural Content) [http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/digicult/index.htm] initiative publicizes many research efforts into and fully realized digitization projects of cultural resources. (This is a different site than the DigiCult Consortium [http://www.digicult.info] mentioned in part 2.)

More Global Directories and Guides

Judged the "Best Museum's Professional Site" at the Museums and the Web 2004 conference, Global Museum [http://www.globalmuseum.org] is packed with current news and links to museum sites.

Museumland [http://www.museumland.com], "the world wide Portal to Museums and Cultural heritage," offers over 11,000 links from 142 countries through English and Italian interfaces.

Zeroland, the Arts on the Web [http://www.zeroland.co.nz/], founded in 2000 by Adrian Hart in New Zealand, provides useful leads to European sites.

Art webgraphie de la renaissance à nos jours [http://www.bump.fundp.ac.be/art/], compiled by Anne-Marie Bogaert-Damin, Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Belgium, is a succinct guide in French to some of the most important Web resources for art history.

You can search for and access various kinds of visual arts resources from around the world through Artifact [http://www.artifact.ac.uk], "the guide to quality Internet resources in the Arts and Creative Industries." One of the aggregate subject portals of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN) [http://www.rdn.ac.uk], Artifact launched in November 2003 as the successor to ADAM [http://www.adam.ac.uk], "the gateway to art, design, architecture, and media information on the Internet."

Geared to educators and students, The Incredible Art Department [http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/] was started by Indianapolis elementary school art teacher Ken Rohrer in 1995, with editorial responsibility later transferred to Princeton, N.J., artist Judy Decker. This wonderful collection of resource links especially serves the young artist and the young or old art fancier.

Italian-born photographer Orazio Centaro established OCAIW (Orazio Centaro's Art Images on the Web) [http://www.ocaiw.com] in 1997. The Painters index lists 1,027 artists from medieval times to the present. For each artist with their own page, Centaro provides links to "Works from 'Virtual Galleries,'" as well as links to background resources on the artists. For an example of his thoroughness, click to the page on Vincent van Gogh. Centaro's coverage of the art history world in his two links sections is exceptional.

International Databases and Web Resources for Art History

As in parts 1 and 2, most selections in part 3 identify some of the best the Web has to offer in free online image databases and Web resources outside the U.S. that document the art history of Western civilization, chiefly from medieval times (ca. 400 to 1400 A.D.) to the end of the 19th century. Many of these databases offer access to thousands of images; at least two sites in Australia and Germany cover over a million digital pictures, though the German site also includes photographs and non-art content. Table 2 in part 1 summarizes digital image totals for most sites. As with Google searching, the trick when it comes to non-English databases, is knowing how best to construct a query. Quite a few art databases contain no controlled vocabulary lists nor the ability to retrieve just online images, so unless you know your artists, the titles of their works, or some other facet of their art, trial and error may be your only hope.

Australia

PictureAustralia [http://www.pictureaustralia.org] offers searches and hooks into over 1 million online images from fine art to historic photographs from nearly every major Australian cultural institution. Museums and galleries directly contribute descriptive records and digital images of their holdings to AMOL (Australian Museums and Galleries Online) Open Collections [http://amol.org.au/collection/collections_index.asp]. You can limit your search of this database to just records with online images; about 11 percent of the more than half-a-million database records include an online image.

At the National Gallery of Australia [http://www.nga.gov.au], you can use the advanced search or detailed search interfaces to limit search results out of some 18,000 descriptions to those with an online image. You can also retrieve descriptions of works displayed within the gallery, a feature also offered by other museum and gallery databases. The gallery operates a second database for the Australian Prints and Printmaking Collection [http://australianprints.gov.au] with around 20,000 images.

Canada

National cultural institutions in my country, as in most others profiled here, generally contain the best and largest digitized image collections. The Virtual Museum of Canada Image Gallery [http://www.virtualmuseum.ca] features an illustrated database to nearly 450,000 digital reproductions of cultural objects. You can keyword search or browse through predefined topics, as well as link to dozens of virtual exhibits with hundreds of online images. The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) [http://www.chin.gc.ca], an internationally renowned museum network and government agency founded in 1972, maintains the VMC, and it alone constitutes an important source of information on the digitization of visual arts collections in Canada. CHIN's Artefacts Canada database for the Humanities [http://www.chin.gc.ca/English/Artefacts_Canada/index.html] is also represented in the VMC Image Gallery.

The National Gallery of Canada's Cybermuse [http://cybermuse.gallery.ca] tool lets you view more than 10,000 images of works from the permanent collection, along with interpretative and background resources. You can search the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Art collection [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020116_e.html] of over 3,300 digitized, public domain images preserved in archival collections. You can search for digitized illustrations from printed publications and other kinds of pictorial content through Images Canada [http://www.imagescanada.ca], a union database hosted by the Library and Archives Canada.

When I checked Artimage [http://www.artimage.org/html/index.html], a union catalog to three Quebec art museums, on September 1, 2004, I found 4,704 described works from the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), 2,168 items from the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art), with a few items dating back to the early 1900s), and 4,360 pieces from the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Quebec National Museum of Fine Arts). Not all descriptions, however, contain a digital image of the work. My own institution, the BC Archives [http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/visual/visual.htm], a division of the Royal BC Museum Corporation, offers online access to over 5,700 pieces of graphic art, more than half of its paintings, drawings, and prints collection.

France

Government Guides and Union Databases

The French national government maintains a number of excellent access points to its cultural heritage as represented in public institutions.

• By far the quickest approach to accessing every database containing digitized cultural content supported by the French government's Ministry of Culture and Communication is through a handy, descriptive list, including digitized image counts, on the Toutes les bases section of the ministry's site [http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/bdd/index.html].

• Through Culture.fr, I found the Numerisation du patrimone culturel site (Digitization of Cultural Heritage) [http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/mrt/numerisation/index.html] and its Catalogue des fonds numérisés database (Catalog of Digitized Collections), a fascinating resource. When existing for public access, you'll find links to the cataloged digital collection.

Culture.fr, le portail de la culture [http://www.culture.fr] is partially available in English or Spanish. This portal covers both French and international museums with an online presence in its Museums section. The Études et recherches section also contains descriptive links to digitization of cultural heritage (Numérisation du patrimoine culturel) and academic background resources for art history (Histoire de l'art).

• SCÉRÉN's Département Arts et Culture, a national, distributed educational network responsible for multimedia educational programming and curriculum resources, assembled an arts guide, named after the department, Arts et Culture [http://www.artsculture.education.fr], which contains more than 10,000 records and a distributed, map-based interface to French cultural institutions.

• The French government hosts two important sources of digitized historical artwork: the illustrated Base Joconde: Catalogue des collections des musées de France (Joconde Database: Catalog of the Museum Collections of France) [http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/pres.htm], a union catalog with over 45,400 thumbnails and downloadable mid-resolution JPGs of selected fine arts and decorative art objects, as well as other kinds of cultural objects, and Base Narcisse (Network of Art Research Computer Image Systems in Europe Database) [http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/lrmf/pres.htm]; select Consultation link at bottom of page], which describes 12,000 works created between the 14th and 20th centuries by 2,000 different artists represented in 1,100 French and other museums, along with 31,000 images.

• The Institut national d'histoire de l'art hosts a union catalog [http://catalogue.inha.fr] that covers the libraries of cultural and educational institutions such as museums and the Sorbonne's École nationale des chartes. This is an excellent tool, as is the National Library's union catalog (Catalogue collectif de France) [http://www.ccfr.bnf.fr], for uncovering art history publications issued by museums and libraries.

Institutional Collections and Databases

A guide to Europe's most famous art museum, the Louvre's Atlas database [http://cartelen.louvre.fr] describes about 29,000 works exhibited in the museum with nearly 17,000 illustrated. The English language search interface notes that database records appear in French, so enter "monna lisa" if you want to view Leonardo da Vinci's most famous portrait.

A larger service, which also covers the Louvre, the Agence photographique de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux (National Museum Association's Photographic Agency) [http://www.photo.rmn.fr/fr/index.html] lets you search over 200,000 images of fine art and museum objects preserved in France's national and regional museums. The site offers a bilingual search interface in French and English. Most searching works with keywords, with only one controlled vocabulary pick list for the "fonds" collection (mistranslated in the English version as "funds"). You won't find the Mona Lisa by searching for Leonardo da Vinci here, but "Léonard de Vinci" or just plain "Vinci" will turn it up.

An important source for historical, illustrated works from around the world, the National Library of France's Gallica [http://gallica.bnf.fr] never ceases to amaze me with its huge and well-indexed digital collection and virtual exhibits. Gallica is especially strong in renderings and drawings of architectural works, as well as illustrated books. The Department of Manuscripts features a database called Mandragore [http://mandragore.bnf.fr] that contains over 15,000 digitized, illuminated manuscripts. The National Library also maintains separate catalogs to its special collections. According to a data summary page on BN-OPALINE [http://opaline.bnf.fr], it has 15,514 digitized maps and plans and 10,666 online prints and photos. These special or other catalogs are best accessed via the Catalogues et ressources électroniques page [http://www.bnf.fr/pages/zNavigat/frame/catalog.htm]. Look for the links to Estampes et photographie (Prints and photographs) and Cartes et plans (Maps and plans). By using the BN-OPALE PLUS link, you can limit searches to still images by selecting only the "Images fixes numérisés" box. Some digitized works will lead back to Gallica.

The Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon makes searching its collection of digitized historic art prints and engravings dating between the 16th and 19th centuries, La base Estampes [http://www.bm-lyon.fr/trouver/basesdedonnees/estampes.htm], a breeze. Its controlled vocabulary pick lists tell you the number of items associated with each term. The other digitized art database here, La base Affiches (posters and broadsides) [http://www.bm-lyon.fr/trouver/basesdedonnees/affiches.htm], works the same way.

The description and digitization of illuminated medieval manuscripts preserved in France's academic institutions is the goal of Liber Floridus [http://liberfloridus.cines.fr]. As of September 1, 2004, you can browse or search 33,000 images from 1,700 manuscripts drawn from two academic libraries.

One of the Web's oldest, The WebMuseum [U.S. mirror: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/], by France's Nicolas Pioch dates back to 1994. Although it probably has fewer than 5,000 images, I included this site because of its age and significance in terms of quality and content. Though the site lacks a search engine, you can explore it by artistic theme, artist name, or art terminology. Many reproductions can be viewed as high-resolution images (around 1200 x 940 pixels) and come with biographical and interpretative essays.

Germany

Germany offers several high-quality portals and subject gateways to art history:

• Like Canada and France, the German government highlights its efforts to promote German arts and culture through its Kulturportal Deutschland [http://www.kulturportal-deutschland.de].

historicum.net: Geschichts- und Kunstwissenschaften im Internet [http://www.historicum.net], maintained by two professors in Cologne and Munich, pulls together various art history and history research resources, primarily in Europe. The emphasis, as far as art history archival sources go, is on photography as an art form and its role in documenting art collections. Look for these links in the Fachgebiete section. Hosted by historicum.net, the online journal Kunstform [http://www.kunstform.historicum.net/], with a searchable archive back to its first issue in 2000, consists of reviews of new art history resources, including electronic resources such as CD-ROM image collections.

• "Online since February 1999," Kunstlinks [http://www.kunstlinks.de/] contains one of the most extensive sets of annotated art history links I've seen.

Kunstgeschichte-Online.com [http://www.kunstgeschichte-online.com] and Portal Kunstgeschichte [http://www.portalkunstgeschichte.de] offer a wide range of resources on art history in Germany and a few other European countries.

Kulturserver: The Online-Community for Art and Culture [http://www.kulturserver.de] brings together several state-level sites operating under the same domain name, along with "partner projects" that cover historic and contemporary art. In addition to linking back to the government's Kulturportal Deutschland, Kulturserver also created and operates, in partnership with the German government agency responsible for culture, a database called Kulturdatenbank.

kunst-und-kultur.de [http://www.kunst-und-kultur.de] includes an illustrated database that covers international historic artists and architects (Künstlerdatenbank).

• For searches of art history publications held by several European institutions, nothing beats the Virtueller Katalog Kunstgeschichte [http://www.ubka.uni-karlsruhe.de/vk_kunst.html], hosted by the Karlsruhe University Library and including catalogs from art library consortia such as IRIS in Florence, Italy.

One of the truly great European visual treasure boxes, the Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur [http://www.bildindex.de], part of Foto Marburg, hosts an astounding 1.6 million images, around half of them art images, and thousands in full color. Unexpected delights here include Tahitian paintings by Paul Gauguin in the Portraits section. A similar online catalog may be available in the future from the Bildarchivs Preussischer Kulturbesitz [http://www.bildarchiv-bpk.de], which holds 12 million photos in various formats, with some subject matter including art. Art Resource [http://www.artres.com] in New York represents this service in North America. The Germans also started development in 2002 of Prometheus [http://www.prometheus-bildarchiv.de/], a union database system for research and education within their academic system, "das verteilte Bildarchiv für Forschung und Lehre," that integrates data from several other public and private data sources such as Pictura Paedagogica Online [http://www.bbf.dipf.de/VirtuellesBildarchiv].

Hungary

The Web Gallery of Art [http://gallery.euroweb.hu], based in Hungary and created by Emil Kren and Daniel Marx, features over 12,000 online JPG format images of European art from the Gothic to the Baroque eras (1150 to 1800 A.D.), accessed through an alphabetical artist index or a well-designed database. I highly recommend this site as a must-visit, especially if you like to decorate your computer's desktop with high-resolution, unwatermarked artwork.

Italy

In addition to the many individual Italian city portals for locating cultural institutions, such as Florence's Firenze.net, the Musei Online [http://www.museionline.it] — in Italian and some English — identifies Italian art museum sites through three different approaches, including a clickable map. Much Italian art has already been photographically documented by longstanding commercial firms such as Fratelli Alinari [http://www.alinari.com] and individual photographers who specialized in this kind of work. Operated by a government agency, the Foteca nazionale (National Italian Photographic Archive) [http://iccd.beniculturali.it/istituto/fototeca.html], for example, contains many photos of artwork within its collection of over 50,000 online images.

Florence, Venice, and Rome provide some of the best on-site, historic, visual art in Italy. In Florence, the Soprintendenza ai Beni Artistici e Storici ("Superintendence of Fine Arts" according to its English site) maintains a union catalog in Italian, the Archivio Opere d'Arte [http://www.sbas.firenze.it/frame-db.html], to works of art in some of the public museums and archives under its jurisdiction.

Although you can view only a few sample images, Florence's Uffizi Gallery's DADDI Project (Digital Archive through Direct Digital Imaging) [http://www.uffizi.firenze.it/Dta/daddi-eng.html], started in 2002, promises to deliver "high-resolution images of the paintings via the Internet." Virtual Uffizi Florence, the Complete Catalogue [http://www.arca.net/uffizi/] briefly describes the contents of each room in the Galeria degli Uffizi, with online images of around 400 works. The artist index includes links to biographical information.

Professor Robert Randolf of the University of Notre Dame has partnered with the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Milan) to create the Online Inventory-Catalogue of the Ambrosiana Drawings [http://www.italnet.nd.edu/ambrosiana/eng/index.html], a visual database of around 12,000 images. As of August 17, 2004, "descriptions for 7,785 drawings are currently available for online searching; images are now accessible for drawings with ND Cat. Nos. 1-5760" (Latest News).

The Soprintendenza per i beni librari e documentari office, part of the Istituto per i beni artistici, culturali e naturali (IBC), which advises the Regione Emilia-Romagna government, sponsors the IMAGO union catalog [http://www.ibc.regione.emilia-romagna.it/soprintendenza/htm/imago.htm]; this site contains 100,000 bibliographic records as well as 10,000 digital images. The IBC also maintains a database on the region's museums (more than 300) and other cultural institutions.

The State Archive of Rome's Imago II Project [http://www.asrm.archivi.beniculturali.it/English/] includes some medieval illuminated manuscripts, along with exquisite digital renditions of old land maps depicting the growth of Rome.

Situated in the 18th century Palazzo Braschi, the Museo di Roma [http://www.museodiroma.comune.roma.it/PalazzoBraschi] offers a database with illustrated records. You can search by various media preserved here and order the searches by creator name or by time period.

An online encyclopedia hosted under the name Sapere.it [http://www.sapere.it] includes a series of articles on art (Canali tematici > Arte), also called Enciclopedia dell'Arte. Through the advance search screen, specifying a search of only the thematic channel on art, I retrieved 374 still images. In addition to 17,906 artist biographies, the Enciclopedia dell'Arte articles are indexed by artistic period and style, location, and technique or medium. The depth of each article varies, and you may find yourself stopped by a screen urging you to subscribe. Under the Enciclopedia Generale menu, however, you'll also see several broad subject categories, one of which is Arte e Architettura. Take a minute to explore the classification scheme. The Pittura section covers the visual arts.

The state police offer a database of stolen works of art on its site, Arma dei Carabinieri [http://www.carabinieri.it], called the Opere d'Arte rubate; it includes over 7,000 graphic works of art from historic to modern times.

Netherlands

Two highly focused sites will lead you right to public, offline collections of Dutch and Flemish art: CODART: Dutch and Flemish Art in Museums [http://www.codart.nl] and Delineavit et Sculpsit: The Internet Site for Dutch & Flemish Old Master Prints and Drawings [http://www.delineavit.nl] offer complementary lists to museums around the world, along with various kinds of Web resources. Both sites are authoritative, created and edited by art curators and scholars. CODART won the Best Museum Professional's Site award at the Museums and the Web 2003 conference.

The DutchESS (Dutch Electronic Subject Service) [http://www.kb.nl/dutchess], hosted by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), contains classified Web resources selected by the national library and Dutch university libraries. You can search or browse by the Dutch Basic Classification system, but, if browsing, look in both the Art Studies (20) and Art Forms (21) sections for online art images and resources. All resource descriptions are in English.

Equivalent to the Library of Congress' American Memory [http://memory.loc.gov] service, Het Geheugen van Nederland (The Memory of the Netherlands) [http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl] "contains images and texts from the often hidden collections of Dutch cultural institutions."

One of the principal historical art museums of the world, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum has developed in-depth views of 1250 Major Exhibits [http://rijksmuseum.nl/asp/framuk.asp?name=collectie2]. You can begin from one of four interlinked types of searches or exhibit paths: artist, catalog, encyclopedia, and theme. You can download any of the high-resolution images. As a lesson in why not to rely on English-language interfaces, thanks to a clue from Professor Chris Witcombe's Art History guide, I found the collections database [http://token.rijksmuseum.nl], which describes over 5,000 objects, many of them illustrated, exists only on the Dutch version of the site (Collectie > Alle schilderijen online).

The Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie's (Netherlands Institute for Art History) [http://www.rkd.nl] RKDimages database describes around 60,000 Dutch and Flemish artworks with at least one digitized image per record. The artworks range in time from the 14th through the 19th centuries.

The Atlas of Mutual Heritage [http://www.atlasmutualheritage.nl], a collaboration between three national institutions, documents historic Dutch colonies established by state-licensed companies such as the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (United East Indian Company) and West-Indische Compagnie (West Indian Company), primarily through pictorial materials (photographs, maps, paintings, prints, etc.).

The Municipal Archives of The Hague (Haags Gemeentearchief) [http://www.gemeentearchief.denhaag.nl] offers a digital collection of black-and-white and color pictorial materials, including art sketches. I found over 1,000 digitized items in the Prenten & tekeningen collection dating before 1999. The site also boasts an impressive collection of digitized maps at a variety of resolutions, but which requires the free MrSID browser plug-in, along with many digitized posters and historic photographs.

Switzerland

World Art Treasures [http://www.bergerfoundation.ch], sponsored by the Jacques-Edouard Berger Foundation (named after a one-time curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland), contains selected digitized images documenting historic architecture and art objects from Berger's personal collection of color slides, of which the foundation owns 100,000.

Russia

The State Hermitage Museum [http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/] in St. Petersburg, Russia, lets visitors "find artwork by selecting colors from a palette or by sketching shapes on a canvas. Or, refine existing search results by requesting all artwork with comparable visual attributes." I used the advanced search and turned up 3,829 digitized paintings, drawings and prints, including mosaics and stained glass objects.

Spain

arteHistoria [http://www.artehistoria.com] offers various modes of access to Spain's art, culture, and world history, including 5,400 "Imágenes de la Historia," not all of which represent historic art, and some of which pertain to non-Spanish artists. You can view a complete image list by title through the Protagonistas de la Historia page. The core art history contents appear on the Genios de la Pintura page, with sections on artists, their work, museums and galleries, styles and schools of art, and materials and techniques.

The National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) does not permit anonymous access to its thousands of digitized engravings, drawings, and photographs in its ARIADNA catalog, but it does publish a Web version of its Guide to Public Collections of Drawings and Engravings in Spain [http://www.bne.es/dibujos/inicio_ingles.htm], which describes the contents of almost 350 public institutions.

Not only can you tour the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza [http://www.museothyssen.org] in Madrid through a Java-based walkthrough with selected clickable pieces of art, you can also search and view over 600 works from the permanent collection dating from the 20th century to as far back as the 1300s. This was by far the best online Spanish museum site I uncovered in terms of quantity and quality of digitized art.

United Kingdom

Several national institutions in England, Scotland, and Wales maintain extensive digital collections of art objects. The sumptuous Tate [http://www.tate.org.uk] collection holds more than 65,000 pieces of British and international art with over 50,000 digitized pieces dating between 1500 and 2004. Search options are extensive, and fans of J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) will revel in a special site devoted to the Tate's extensive holdings of that artist.

You can search and view the entire National Gallery [http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk] permanent collection of works from the 1200s to 1900 through a variety of interfaces designed to support everyone from the beginner to the art historian. The total number of artworks, including paintings, is 2,300. Founded in 1856 and "the most comprehensive of its kind in the world," the National Portrait Gallery [http://www.npg.org.uk] collection database contains illustrations for 31,893 of the 54,267 described portraits. The Victoria & Albert Museum's Access to Images [http://images.vam.ac.uk] database describes and illustrates more than 10,000 objects, including paintings and drawings collected since the museum's establishment in 1852.

Collage [http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk], an acronym for "Corporation of London Library & Art Gallery Electronic," lets you search more than 20,000 images, chiefly art, from the Corporation of London Libraries and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Works in the collection date between 1550 and 1990, and digital images are watermarked.

The British Library's new Collection Britain: Putting History in Its Place [http://www.collectbritain.co.uk], somewhat like the National Library of Scotland's Digital Library, features thousands of "maps, views, prints and drawings, photographs and documents, advertising ephemera and rare early sound recordings." To reach just the images at the British Library, use its Images Online service [http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk].

The National Library of Wales and the National Library of Scotland offer growing and impressive digital collections that rival those of the British Library. Through the Treasures section of its Digital Mirror [http://www.llgc.org.uk/drych/index_s.htm], the former offers a complete catalog with selected digital copies to its framed works of art and plans to digitize all its topographical prints for free Web access. In the category of unusual or early street art from Scotland, try The Word on the Street [http://www.nls.uk/broadsides/] digital collection of 1,800 broadsides dating between 1650 and 1910.

Comparable to PictureAustralia, except that its sole purpose is to market images sourced from its public and corporate partners, the Heritage Image Partnership Picture [http://www.heritage-images.com] contains photographs and original artwork from "leading British museums, libraries, institutions and archives that have accumulated and catalogued unique collections of photographs, illustrations, manuscripts, artworks and engravings...." Using the browse feature, I found 5,242 "Artistic Representations," 377 "Landscapes," 131 "Panoramas," 2,099 "Portraits," 29 "Seascapes," and 21 "Still Lifes," with all results including original photographs. Several partner institutions maintain their own Web sites and may offer higher-resolution images of the same works.

As a work in progress and because of its importance to the history of British art, the small and growing online collection of the Royal Academy of Arts [http://www.royalacademy.org.uk], founded in 1768, should not be missed. Non-British artists are also represented here. The collection, parts of which you can access through an illustrated artist index, contains "850 paintings, 350 sculptures, 500 plaster casts, 15,000 prints and drawings, and 2,000 historic photographs."

A number of British universities and colleges, such as Oxford and Cambridge, maintain art galleries that span time, place, and types of art objects. Oxford's Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology [http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk], "Britain's oldest public museum," features a range of online resources, from the AMOS Objects Seeker to specific object and visual resources databases such as PotWeb: Ceramics Online [http://potweb.ashmol.ox.ac.uk]. The Oxford Digital Library Collections [http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/collections/index.html] is a convenient entry point into the university's art and art-related digitization projects. One of the most fascinating digitization efforts underway at the Ashmolean is The Ruskin Project: Digitising the Ruskin Teaching Collection at the Ashmolean Museum [http://ruskin.oucs.ox.ac.uk]. You can browse and search illustrated narrative catalogues used by John Ruskin while at Oxford between 1870 and 1885 [http://ruskin.oucs.ox.ac.uk and http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/ash/amulets/ruskin/] to teach drawing.

Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum [http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk], established in 1816 and Oxford's rival in age and online collection research, launched the Pharos guide to its collections [http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/pharos/index.html] in June 2004. Through the existing online catalog or collections database, you can search for 98,958 records (as of August 27, 2004). The database search interface lets you select only records with links to digital images (25,212 images as of September 1, 2004).

The Courtauld Institute of Art and Architecture portal [http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk], University of London, offers public access upon free registration to a large image collection from the Institute's own gallery. I found over 30,000 image descriptions using a keyword search for "art." Refining the search, I found a total of 7,102 drawings and 551 paintings. The remaining images cover sculptures and architectural works.

The University of Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery [http://www.whitworth.man.ac.uk], established in 1889, features a collection catalog that describes 95 percent of its 43,000 objects and offers black-and-white and color images to 15 percent of the database records.

An unusual corporate site, the MOTCO UK Directory and Image Database [http://www.motco.com/default-Markou.asp] features "a reference database of [about 3,500] topographical prints, maps, prospects and panoramas of London, the Thames and the U.K." scanned from various publications issued between 1791 and 1870.

Conclusion

Good art is everywhere and thousands of cultural and academic institutions around the world are busily digitizing more for a variety of purposes. While we tend to associate public, historic, fine art collections with museums and galleries, my explorations found that libraries are an equally important caretaker and source for our artistic heritage, particularly when it comes to printed engravings and lithographs. With ongoing research into image retrieval, larger union catalogs of images, and federated or distributed search databases, I hope looking for good art will become less of a challenge and more of a pleasure in years to come.

The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.

The Fine Print

While most of the sites described in this series provide free access to digitized images, this does not mean that you can download and use images any way you see fit. Many sites digitally watermark their images, usually in one of two obvious ways: right across the center or in one corner. When you see a watermark, you probably don't need to read the fine print on usage restrictions to realize that the institution or organization wishes to maintain control and probably licenses the image's use. Some sites go a step further and prevent downloading altogether through various techniques, including special client viewing software. [For information on copyright and image use, see Nicholas Tomaiuolo's "When Image is Everything," Searcher, v. 10, no. 1 January 2002, http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jan02/tomaiuolo.htm, and Christine L. Sundt's Copyright & Art Issues, http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~csundt/copyweb/.]

Most sites display digitized art in the JPG format. Except for my own institution's digital archival pictorial collection, which uses the GIF format and a reduced color set for both black-and-white and color images, so far as I could tell, all the other sites, even at the highest resolution, generally in the 600 x 400 pixel or mid-size range, do not reduce the colors to a noticeable level. A handful of sites offer high-resolution JPG and BMP images, which I have defined as anything over 1024 x 768 pixels. If you have trouble viewing the entire surface area of a digital art image on your monitor, or if the color does not appear quite right, check your monitor settings for adjustment. If your monitor supports a higher screen resolution, such as 1024 x 768 and 32-bit color, switch to those choices. Graphics software, such as Paint Shop Pro or Adobe Photoshop and even Windows XP Explorer, will provide you with technical information about the image and help you determine if the problem lies with your monitor or the image itself. You'll find lots of interesting and very technical explanations around the subject of color management, which includes topics such as pixel depth and image resolution, through a Google search.


Recommended Reading

Art Libraries Journal (1976-). International serial published quarterly by ARLIS/UK & Ireland.

Baca, Murtha, ed., Introduction to Art Image Access: Issues, Tools, Standards, Strategies, Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2002.

Berinstein, Paula, Finding Images Online: Online User's Guide to Image Searching in Cyberspace, Wilton, CT, Pemberton Press, 1996. See the book's Web site for more current links to art and other kinds of image sites [http://www.berinsteinresearch.com/fiolinks.htm].

Entlich, Richard, "FAQ: Image Search Engines," RLG DigiNews, v. 5, no. 6 (December 15, 2001) [http://www.rlg.org/preserv/diginews/diginews5-6.html#faq].

Fishman, Stephen, The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, 2nd Edition, Berkeley, CA, Nolo, 2004. See also the Nolo Law Center on copyright and art images [http://www.nolo.com/lawcenter/].

Jackson, Julian, Picture Research in a Digital Age eBook, version 2, London, U.K.: Julian Jackson Associates, 2004. Use the URL [http://www.picture-research.org.uk/prda.htm] to order online.

McLaughlin, Margaret L., "The Art Site on the World Wide Web," Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, v. 1, no. 4 (March 1996) [http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol1/issue4/mclaugh.html].

McRae, Linda and Lynda S. White, eds., ArtMARC Sourcebook: Cataloging Art, Architecture, and Their Visual Images, Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

MIT Libraries, Rotch Visual Collections, Exploring Image Collections on the Internet: Resources at MIT and Beyond [http://libraries.mit.edu/rvc/image-collections/index.html].

Pitt, Sharon P., Christina B. Updike, and Miriam E. Guthrie, "Integrating Digital Images into the Art and Art History Curriculum," Educause Quarterly, v. 25, no. 2, 2002, pp. 38-44 and Adobe PDF [http://cit.jmu.edu/mdidinfo/presentations/educause_quarterly_2002.pdf]. Describes James Madison University's Internet-based MDID (Madison Digital Image Database) teaching tool [http://cit.jmu.edu/mdidinfo/].

Thomas, Ruth S. (Boston University Libraries), Finding Images on the Web [http://www.bu.edu/library/instruction/findimages/index.html].

Tomaiuolo, Nicolas G., The Web Library: Building a World Class Personal Library with Free Web Resources, Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2004 (Updates: http://library.ccsu.edu/library/tomaiuolon/theweblibrary.htm].

Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI), Institute for Learning and Research Technology, University of Bristol (England), A Review of Image Search Engines [http://www.tasi.ac.uk/resources/searchengines.html].

Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI), Institute for Learning and Research Technology, University of Bristol (England), Searching the Internet for Images [http://www.tasi.ac.uk/resources/searchingresources.html].


 

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