ARTstor is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Carl and Jennifer Strom of Topanga, California, through which ARTstor will digitize and distribute the unique Strom Archive of the art and architecture of Korean Buddhist monasteries. The Strom Archive will significantly strengthen and deepen ARTstor’s already strong collections of Asian Art.

The Strom Archive consists primarily of photographs of South Korean Buddhist temple and monastery painting from the Choson Period (1392–1910). Carl Strom began photographing Korean temple art in the early 1970s with the goal of preserving a visual record of an important, vanishing art form. In the course of his travels, Carl Strom visited and evaluated approximately 500 small and large temples and monasteries, documenting approximately 120 locations. These include not only Buddhist temples but also Confucian, shaman, private ancestor and roadside shrines. Among the art objects photographed were rare altar paintings, as well as sculptures and mural decoration. Many of these art works have subsequently been lost or destroyed. The Strom Archive’s historical timeframe ranges from the 13th to the 20th centuries, with the highest concentration of paintings dating from ca1600–1800. The temple sites, building names, and inscriptions identifying artists, occasions, dates, donors, and monks were all recorded along with the measurements of the paintings. In addition to the temple and monastery painting, approximately 20% of the photographs document the Emillle Collection of non-academic, indigenous Korean folk painting. Carl Strom photographed the Emillle Collection before its eventual dispersal.

Burglind Jungmann, professor of Korean art history at the University of California Los Angeles, is generously collaborating with ARTstor and the Stroms on this important effort to digitize the Strom archive and to make it more widely accessible for educational and scholarly use. As Professor Jungmann notes, “Since Korea and the Korean Buddhist church have become quite wealthy over the last decades, temples have been renovated and temple walls re-painted. In most cases the new colors are much brighter than those used before. It is also quite possible that some art works have been lost in the process. Moreover, in the 1970s there was hardly any tourism in Korea but, of course, nowadays temples have also become tourist sites. Research on Korean Buddhist art of the early modern period (Choson period, 1392–1910) only started in earnest in the 1990s. Before then it wasn’t really considered of any particular value compared to the great periods of Korean Buddhist art of the 8th to 14th centuries. And even now, there are very few publications about monasteries and their decoration …. As for Buddhist architecture itself, there are only a few, very selective publications.” Max Marmor, ARTstor’s Director of Collection Development, adds that “The inclusion of the unique Strom Archive in ARTstor will enrich ARTstor’s ability to advance the work of students, teachers and scholars throughout Asian Studies very significantly. We are delighted to be working with the Stroms and UCLA to make this important archive more broadly available for educational and scholarly use.”

The first fruits of this project should be available to ARTstor users in the course of 2007.