The Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings and ARTstor are pleased to announce that they have formed an ongoing collaboration with a goal of creating a digital version of the Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings, the renowned photographic archive of more than 184,000 old master drawings.

For more than half a century, the Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings has been documenting old master drawings in scores of archives, libraries and museums around the world. An ongoing effort of Dr. Walter and Dr. Jutta Gernsheim, the Corpus embodies an unsurpassed commitment to serving the scholarly needs of the international community of art historians. The Corpus presently embodies more than 184,000 extraordinary black-and-white photographs of European old master drawings from the 15th to the early 20th century. As a subscription service, the Corpus is available in its entirety at only a very small number of scholarly photo archives in Europe, Britain and America. Incomplete copies of the Corpus may be found in a few other locations. But this remarkable resource has never been readily accessible to the majority of scholars, teachers and curators who would benefit from consulting its riches.

ARTstor has now developed an ongoing partnership with the Gernsheim Corpus, the goal of which is to progressively digitize and distribute through ARTstor a comprehensive online version of this invaluable art historical resource. As the project proceeds, the two partners will seek to engage the participation of the many museums whose drawings collections are represented in the Corpus, and ARTstor accordingly anticipates making digital versions of the images available to ARTstor participants in phases.

The British Museum has already expressed its enthusiasm for the distribution through ARTstor of the nearly 17,000 old master drawings from its collections that have been photographed over the d ecades by the Gernsheim Corpus. These will be the first fruits of this exciting collaboration. The British Museum will also share with ARTstor its online cataloging data for these drawings. Antony Griffiths, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, voiced the museum’s strong support for ARTstor’s effort to both preserve the Gernsheim Corpus and help it enter a new era as a key resource for the art historian – something that has been high on the agenda of the larger community of drawings curators. “The British Museum has been associated with the Gernsheim Photographic Corpus since its beginning, and has seen it grow into the greatest archive of photos of Old Master drawings in the world. We are now delighted that it will be made more widely available through ARTstor.” ARTstor is now inviting further museums to participate in this important project. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have recently added their support to that of the British Museum.

In reaching this agreement, James Shulman, Executive Director of ARTstor, expressed ARTstor’s enthusiasm in collaborating to use digital technologies to make this unique resource more broadly available for noncommercial educational and scholarly purposes. “The Gernsheim Corpus is truly a unique labor of love,” says Shulman. “We at ARTstor are privileged and excited to be playing a role in making this unrivaled reference resource more widely available to the community of scholars and curators in a new medium.”

ARTstor anticipates inviting a team of collaborators, including both collaborating museums and such key photo archives as the Biblioteca Hertziana (Rome), The Frick Art Reference Library (New York), and the Getty Research Institute (a program of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles), to join in a coordinated effort to normalize, enhance and convert to electronic form the cataloging data associated with the Gernsheim Corpus. ARTstor also welcomes the collaboration of the Cleveland Museum of Art in this project. The museum’s copy of the Gernsheim Corpus is both comprehensive and well-preserved, and using this copy as a scanning source will allow ARTstor to take full advantage of the enormous care with which the photographic prints have been developed by the Gernsheims.