Some recent projects

A couple new digitization projects have caught my attention, so I thought I’d post them here.

The first is the Museum of Modern Art’s Archive Image Database. From the MoMA’s own press release:  MAID is a database of 50,000+ images digitized from theMoMA Archives, including letters, drawings, photographs, exhibition
installation views, scrapbook pages, newsclippings, etc.  For over 12
years, MAID has been a rich internal resource that was only accessible on
MoMA-networked computers.  For the first time ever, researchers worldwide
may now access the database online at

Second, my employer, the Art Institute of Chicago, recently updated their website, and with that update, made available some 52,000 high-resolution images from the permanent collection. The images can be accessed through the “Collections” page here. The images have been made available through the Creative Commons Zero (CCO) license and can be downloaded for free. The museum has also enhanced the image viewing capabilities on the website, allowing viewers to zoom in and view works in great detail.

Sioux Indian Drawings Digitized

The Newberry Library recently announced the availability of an amazing collection of digitized material related to early United States history and the Westward Expansion.

The Edward E. Ayer collection is one of the largest collections of materials related to Native Americans in the United States. Within this collection is an amazing cache of drawings by Sioux Indians, which are now available online. Additionally, the Newberry now offers these materials through an open-access policy, allowing anyone to use the images for any purpose.

Drawings of the Florentine Painters

The Villa i Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies, has launched “Drawings of the Florentine Painters,” a digital resource based on the Bernard Berenson publication of the same name. It’s an astonishing database that includes the text from all three editions of Berenson’s work, in both English and Italian, as well as thousands of images.

Being able to search, view, cross-reference, and explore all these drawings is impressive enough, but what makes this resource truly valuable is that the content of the catalogs has been converted into Linked Open Data, allowing researchers direct access to the data. The dataset is also available as RDF (resource description framework) for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, allowing researchers to use the data in potentially new ways and combine them with other open-data repositories

Mapping Paintings

Jodi Cranston, a professor at Boston University, has produced an amazing website called “Mapping Paintings.”

The site  is produced using an open-source platform that allows contributors to map the provenance of any given artwork, detailing how it travels across the globe, and through time, from its creation to its current location.

Cranston is quoted in Hyperallergic, “Provenance information is in printed catalogues and on some museum websites, but visualizing the movement of these artworks allows users to recognize their objecthood and also not to get bogged down in concerns about authenticity and pedigree that often come with provenance information.  Sometimes seeing that an artwork went somewhere unexpected is more impactful than reading it in a long list of text.”

Digital Time Travel

The New York Public Library is creating a site allowing visitors to view historic New York through the use of digitized maps.

From the website: “The NYC Space/Time Directory will make urban history accessible through a set of resources including: a searchable atlas of New York past, an historical location directory and geocoder, a set of APIs and data sets, and a discovery tool linking NYPL collections together in an historical and geographic context.”

Fabergé at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has launched a mini-site dedicated to the Lillian Thomas Pratt Archive. Ms. Pratt was a collector of Russian decorative arts, including several Fabergé eggs. Upon her death, her collection was given to the VMFA.

The site includes digitized documents from her archive, including photographs, digitized rare books, and even receipts for the artworks she purchased. Even more interesting, there are also available 360° views of the Easter eggs, videos of the eggs opening, and a link to the full collection. The site also includes a link to a Fabergé & Russian Culture App, which is available for both mobile and tablet. The app includes historic “paths” for viewers to follow, a creative toolkit for teachers, and a “make your own Fabergé egg” game.

The site has a rich amount of material, both visual and text-based, and is a fantastic resource for those researching, or simply curious about, Imperial Russian decorative arts and their American collectors.

Aberdeen Bestiary

Recently, the University of Aberdeen recently uploaded a digitized version of the Aberdeen Bestiary, one of the most lavishly illustrated bestiaries of the middle ages.

In addition to providing high-resolution images, the site also provides transcriptions and translations of the Latin text, as well as commentary on the work.

The link to the book is here.

OSCI Toolkit

I recently discovered that IMA Lab, the web design and development consultancy at the Indiana Museum of Art, have created a toolkit for the Online Scholarly Catalog Initiative, launched by the Getty Foundation in 2009.

The toolkit is an open-source project that allows museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions to create their own online catalogs. The toolkit offers an overview of the architecture necessary for the project, tutorials, a link to the GitHub page, and a demo site allowing people to play around with the tools.

Update: about a month ago, the IMA Lab provided a YouTube video explaining the OSCI Toolkit and gave a brief demonstration on how to use it. More information can be found here.

Bauhaus Collection at Harvard Art Museum

Harvard Art Museums recently launched a website focusing on their collections related to the Bauhaus, the early-20th Century German school of art and design. Harvard owns a substantial collection of objects made at the school itself, as well as work from teachers, students, and those influenced by the movement.

The website has a very simple chronology, an essay about the relationship between Bauhaus and Harvard University, a very thorough bibliography, and an annotated map of Bauhaus-related sites in Boston. But the core value of the site is the over 32,000 objects in a variety of media that can be searched and viewed on the site. The objects can be searched by artist, media, date, or even “themes” such as ‘Bauhaus in America’ or ‘Stage.’