Looking for Good Art
Part 3: Glorious National Collections
by David Mattison
Access Archivist, British Columbia Archives, Royal BC
1] • [Part
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
is the primary resource for learning about past and current
R&D projects involving art. As part of its eEurope
EU's DigiCult (Digital Heritage and Cultural Content)
initiative publicizes many research efforts into and fully
realized digitization projects of cultural resources.
(This is a different site than the DigiCult Consortium
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
is packed with current news and links to museum sites.
"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
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
"the guide to quality Internet resources in the Arts
and Creative Industries." One of the aggregate subject
portals of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN)
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)
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
International Databases and Web Resources for Art
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.
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.
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
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
is also represented in the VMC Image Gallery.
The National Gallery of Canada's Cybermuse
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
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
One of the Web's oldest, The WebMuseum [U.S.
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
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
"Online since February 1999," Kunstlinks
contains one of the most extensive sets of annotated
art history links I've seen.
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.
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
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
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
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].
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,
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
and individual photographers who specialized in this
kind of work. Operated by a government agency, the Foteca
nazionale (National Italian Photographic Archive)
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
The DutchESS (Dutch Electronic Subject Service)
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
which describes the contents of almost 350 public institutions.
Not only can you tour the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The University of Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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:
Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI), Institute
for Learning and Research Technology, University of
Bristol (England), A Review of Image Search Engines
Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI), Institute
for Learning and Research Technology, University of
Bristol (England), Searching the Internet for Images