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December 22, 2006

Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”: Additional Images

Through an agreement with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Florence, Italy), ARTstor has been supporting the rich photographic documentation of the recently restored bronze doors on the east side of the Florentine Baptistery, universally known as the “Gates of Paradise” (in Italian, “Porta del Paradiso”). The sculptural relief panels of the “Gates of Paradise,” produced during the second quarter of the fifteenth century by the great Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), constitute one of the most important art works of the early Italian Renaissance. After more than twenty-five years of work, the restoration of Ghiberti’s famous “Gates of Paradise” is nearing completion. ARTstor is sponsoring the comprehensive photographic documentation of the Gates of Paradise in their newly restored state. This photographic campaign has produced nearly 750 stunning, detailed photographs of Ghiberti’s relief sculptures in both their uncleaned and their restored states, all of which have now been digitized by ARTstor and the majority of which are now available as part of the ARTstor Digital Library.

We are pleased now to announce now that we have just released approximately 150 black-and-white photographs of frieze elements from the Gates of Paradise in their state prior to the recent cleaning campaign. These comparative materials underscore the importance of the recent restoration campaign and its photographic documentation by ARTstor.

To locate these and other images from the Ghiberti campaign in the ARTstor Image Gallery most readily, search for “Ghiberti Quattrone,” so as to retrieve only these new photographs (produced by the outstanding Florentine photographer, Antonio Quattrone).

You may also be interested in “A peek behind Ghiberti’s Florentine Baptistery Doors.

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December 7, 2006

ARTstor to Collaborate in Documenting the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Rock-Cut Cave Temples at Ellora, India

ARTstor is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Dr. Deepanjana Danda Klein, through which ARTstor will digitize her unique archive of photographic documentation of the more than 30 rock-cut cave temples at Ellora, India. The approximately 2,500 black-and-white and approximately 4,500 color photographs of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave shrines at Ellora – produced in connection with a collaboration with Professor Walter Spink from University of Michigan and Deepanjana’s dissertation devoted to the site, now being published as an exhaustive scholarly study – will significantly strengthen and deepen ARTstor’s already strong collections in Asian Art.

Ellora has been described as a “site of outstanding cave temples, datable between c. AD 575 and the end of the 9th century, 20 km north of Aurangabad in the Sahyadri Hills, Maharashtra, India. The caves were excavated into volcanic rock along a 2-km stretch of west-facing embankment; there are 34 major caves, numbered consecutively rather than chronologically, starting with the Buddhist group (Caves 1–12) in the south. Other groups are dedicated to the Brahmanical pantheon (Caves 14–29) and to Jainism (Caves 30–34). The most notable monument is Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple” which “represents the culmination of rock-cut architecture, with huge sculptural reliefs heightening the overall symbolism of the temple as cosmic mountain and as the home of Shiva” (Grove Art Online).

The present photographic campaign at Ellora represents the first systematic documentation of the entire site, including the first photographs of previously undocumented caves. Dr. Walter Spink, Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan, speaks to the significance of the current project when he says “Due to the knowledge, energy, and technical expertise of Dr. Deepanjana Danda Klein and the enthusiastic cooperation of her husband, Dr. Arno Klein, scholars now finally have a truly comprehensive photographic coverage of this great site’s varied Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain material.” And Max Marmor, ARTstor Director of Collection Development, expressed ARTstor’s enthusiasm for this collaboration. “We have long admired the South Asian documentary efforts that have emerged from the University of Michigan over many years. The inclusion within ARTstor of Deepanjana Danda Klein’s documentation of the immensely important shrines at Ellora will significantly enrich ARTstor’s already strong offerings in the art of India, anchored by the Huntington Archive of Asian Art and the ACSAA Color Slide Project materials just now being added to ARTstor.” The first fruits of this project should be available to ARTstor users early in 2007.

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November 20, 2006

Collaborative Agreement Reached Between the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (University of Virginia), the Society of Architectural Historians, and ARTstor

ARTstor, in partnership with the Society of Architectural Historians, is pleased to announce its sponsorship of a forthcoming Guide to Best Practice for the use of Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) in documenting archaeological, architectural and other cultural heritage sites. The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia is coordinating the production of this much-needed guide.

Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) is playing an increasingly important role documenting the history of architecture. QTVR panoramas provide the beholder with a powerful new sense of spatiality and the interconnectedness of the different parts of a building, monument or site; they hold the promise of transforming the teaching and the study of architectural history and archaeology. QTVR can potentially free teachers from their traditional dependence upon still images. It can help them to put art into its context and to take their students on surrogate tours of complex works of architecture. And yet QTVR panoramas are not easy to make in a way that ensures high quality imagery, a long “shelf life” for the QTVR as technology advances, proper attention to legal and ethical issues related to copyright and cultural patrimony, and comprehensibility and usability from the user’s point of view. In the absence of recognized standards for the creation of QTVR panoramas, what is needed is a “best practice” guide, focusing especially but not exclusively on QTVR. Such a guide will make it easier for scholars and photographers to produce 360-degree digital panoramas of sufficient quality to meet the needs of students and scholars in the field of architectural history for years to come.

The forthcoming guide will address such key topics as:

  • The history and use of panoramic photography;
  • Pre-production issues such as defining goals, selecting the site and site nodes, taking into account environmental considerations and scheduling, selecting equipment, access issues and budget;
  • Copyright and permissions;
  • Production issues such as types of digital panorama photography and structures, file formats, image capturing systems, workflow, lighting, site documentation, and short-term backup and storage;
  • Related media such as audio and video;
  • Post-production work, including stitching and rendering, data and documentation standards;
  • Viewing, publication and use, including resource delivery and user issues;
  • Storage and preservation.

Appendices will include a directory of relevant organizations, workflow diagrams, sample floor plans, checklists, guides to permissions, customs, copyright and laws in example countries, sample legal forms, workflow for image capture, pre-processing, stitching and rendering, batch scripts, metadata tables, recommended viewer platforms, browsers and viewers, case studies, glossary, bibliography and references.

The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) is a research unit of the University of Virginia. Its goal is to explore and develop information technology as a tool for scholarly humanities research. To that end, it provides IATH Fellows with consulting, technical support, applications development, and networked publishing facilities. IATH also cultivates partnerships and participates in humanities computing initiatives with libraries, publishers, information technology companies, scholarly organizations, and other groups residing at the intersection of computers and cultural heritage.

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) is an international not-for-profit membership organization that promotes the study and preservation of the built environment worldwide. The Society’s 3,500 members include architectural historians, architects, preservationists, students, professionals in allied fields and the interested public. Founded in 1940, membership in SAH is open to everyone, regardless of profession or expertise, who is interested in the study, interpretation, and protection of historically significant buildings, sites, cities and landscapes. The forthcoming Guide to Best Practices in QTVR will be widely disseminated in 2007.

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August 14, 2006

The Museum of Modern Art and Artstor to collaborate on digitization project

The Museum of Modern Art and Artstor announced a project to digitize nearly 23,000 photographs from the MoMA Archives’ comprehensive collection of exhibition installation photographs and distribute them through Artstor. This material richly documents every major exhibition held at the Museum, beginning with the inaugural exhibition of 1929. Enhanced and comprehensive online access to this important collection will strongly encourage and advance scholarship on the history and institutions of modern art.

In reaching this agreement, Milan Hughston, Chief of Library and Museum Archives and Max Marmor, Artstor’s Director of Collection Development, expressed their shared enthusiasm in collaborating to use digital technologies to make these high quality images of contemporary art and architecture more broadly available for noncommercial educational and scholarly purposes.

The Museum’s 75th Anniversary in 2004 gave us a chance to highlight this collection in a special publication, Art in Our Time, edited by Museum Archivist Michelle Elligott and Harriet Bee. Those images were only a small sampling of a vast body of important material, and we are grateful to Artstor for recognizing the value of digitizing the entire collection for distribution,” comments Hughston.

“Our new collaboration with staff of the MoMA Library and Archives,” adds Marmor, “represents an important milestone in Artstor’s ongoing effort to provide teachers, scholars and students with digital image collections documenting the development of modern and contemporary art. We are delighted to help make this important photographic archive available now online for non-commercial use in education and research.” The MoMA installation photographs are highly prized by art historians and other scholars. In addition to Art in Our Time, they provided the basis for Mary Anne Staniszewski’s pioneering The Power of Display: a History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).

The MoMA Archives was established in 1989 to preserve and to make accessible historical documents about the Museum and modern and contemporary art. The Photographic Archive documents and maintains the complete visual history of the Museum. “The installation photographs of exhibitions at MoMA are a unique and valuable resource. Like the other collections in the Archives, these materials tell the story of modern and contemporary art. Because of MoMA’s singular role in the introduction and dissemination of modern art, these photos document this evolution and are critical to the study of modern art as well as the history of modern museums, and the field of installation design,” according to Michelle Elligott, Museum Archivist.

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July 12, 2005

Artstor Announces Release of New Images, Formerly in the AMICO Library

Artstor is pleased to announce the release into the Artstor Digital Library of over 25,000 images, most of which were formerly a part of the AMICO collection. As of today, users of Artstor will be able to view images provided by the following museums:

  • Asia Society
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College
  • The Frick Collection and Art Reference Library
  • George Eastman House
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • The Walters Art Museum

To locate these images, which have been integrated into the Image Gallery and its browsing taxonomy, you can use “AMICO” as a keyword when searching. For best results, combine “AMICO” with additional search criteria, such as repository or creator name.
In early August, we anticipate releasing approximately 85,000 additional images from:

  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Library of Congress
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art

We will make additional announcements when those images are available in the Library and will continue to keep you updated of additional releases of images and of new museum agreements as they are reached. For more information about our work on the AMICO project, please see our past announcement regarding this collaboration.

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January 26, 2005

Institutional Hosting Pilot

In June 2004, Artstor initiated a year-long pilot of its proposed institutional hosting service. This service will enable local institutional collections to be hosted by Artstor and served back to the participating institution alongside Artstor’s Charter Collection, and using Artstor’s software environment and tools. Ten colleges and universities have been working with Artstor to assess the usefulness of this service to institutions, as well as to evaluate the financial and organizational impact of hosting at each institution.

The Artstor user community has expressed a great deal of interest and enthusiasm about the hosting service for several reasons: (1) hosting will allow institutions to supplement the images in Artstor’s Charter Collection with additional images that meet the specific needs of an institution and its professors; (2) all hosted images will be retrieved via Artstor’ tools and software, which means that local collections can utilize the searching, browsing, and zooming capabilities of the Artstor software; (3) for many institutions, hosting will also provide organizational benefits, since Artstor’s underlying database can function as a useful tool for the campus-wide management of images and data.

The ten institutions involved in the pilot, which include universities and colleges, were chosen for their diversity in the type of institutional collections, the size of those collections, and the media on which those institutional collections are stored. While some institutions elected to host art-related collections, many have contributed collections that represent a wide range of departments and disciplines, including biology, astronomy, maps of Africa, and Cuban Heritage objects.

Over the course of assessing the pilot, we are gathering data from institutions about current practices in image collection-building and management, and asking participants about the pedagogical impact of having local collections made more widely accessible alongside the Artstor collections. Artstor is working with the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) and seven NITLE-member colleges on the formal assessment of the hosting pilot. NITLE has provided these colleges with funds to access Artstor for the length of the pilot, and Artstor is working with these schools to assess the financial and organizational impact of institutional collection hosting in an educational environment.

The hosting pilot project is scheduled to run through the summer. Once the results are complied and reviewed we will be announcing the next steps.

The institutions currently participating in the pilot are:

  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Denison University
  • DePauw University
  • Emory University
  • Grinnell College
  • Sewanee: The University of the South
  • Stanford University
  • University of Miami
  • Washington and Lee University
  • Williams College

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June 1, 2004

Artstor and AMICO Combine Efforts to Distribute Digital Images for Museums and Higher Education

The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO), a non-profit consortium of 39 museums, and Artstor, a non-profit organization sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announced today that AMICO will be phasing out its independent operations as it focuses on supporting Artstor’s emerging leadership role in providing broad based access to what is expected to be the world’s largest single collection of online art images designed specifically for use by the education, research and arts communities. Both organizations expressed their belief that this important step will help museums, educational institutions, libraries, teachers, scholars, and students create and use this significant new community resource for the educational use of documented works of art. In phasing out its operations and endorsing Artstor’s role, AMICO affirms to the museum and educational communities that Artstor is well poised to carry forth and expand upon the mission that AMICO embarked on more than five years ago, when museum leaders recognized the vital need for an online library of high quality art images and associated data. While each museum that contributes content to AMICO will independently determine whether to make that content available through Artstor, both AMICO and Artstor expressed strong support for their continued sharing of their collections through Artstor.

AMICO’s operations are scheduled to conclude in August 2005. Until then, it will continue to support the independent distributors of its image library as well as the needs of its museum membership and library subscribers. During this period, AMICO will also be sharing with Artstor the experiences and knowledge gained over its years of operations as well as the software tools and standards for collection aggregation and distribution it has developed. AMICO and Artstor expect that this will help ensure a smooth migration of AMICO museum image contributions to Artstor for museums that choose to do so, as well as further bolster the confidence of AMICO subscribers that Artstor is upholding the high standards for content that characterized the AMICO collection.

“The art museums that make up AMICO have achieved something extraordinary by having created a uniquely effective cooperative program for making digital art images available,” said Michael Conforti, Chairman of AMICO, and director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. “AMICO’s critical and path-breaking work will continue to be advanced into the future through ARTstor’s broad community-wide initiative,” Conforti added, “and we hope that as many museums as possible will see the advantages of and making their work available through Artstor’s digital library.”

“I am certain that the opportunity for Artstor to draw from AMICO’s strengths will allow Artstor to build upon and extend the pioneering achievements of AMICO in order to create a valuable resource for education in fields that draw upon the visual arts,” stated Neil L. Rudenstine, former president of Harvard and Chairman of the Artstor board.

Founded in 1996, the Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) is a not-for-profit consortium of institutions nationwide that have been collaborating to enable educational use of museum collection images and multimedia. With a library that numbers over 140,000 images, AMICO began as the vision of Maxwell L. Anderson, former director of the Whitney Museum and past President of the Association of Art Museum Directors, with a goal of providing educational institutions that license the AMICO Library with access to museum multimedia for educational use.

Anderson commented, “AMICO is today poised to hand off to Artstor an unparalleled range of experience in making rich multimedia broadly available to educational users. All of us associated with AMICO are extremely hopeful about Artstor’s future under the leadership of its Chairman Neil Rudenstine and its Executive Director James Shulman. Their commitment, together with the Mellon Foundation’s peerless advocacy of art museums and higher education, will yield great progress in making illustrated art collections widely accessible in the years ahead.”

“We have enormous admiration for Max Anderson’s original and bold vision,” said James Shulman, executive director of Artstor, “and the way he and the AMICO staff transformed that vision into a reality. Their collective talent and the Herculean efforts of the staff at the member museums have shown the enormous community-wide benefits of collaboration.”

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April 12, 2004

Artstor Announces Availability Of Digital Image Resource

Initiative Sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Serve Educational and Cultural Communities

April 12, 2004. Artstor, a non-profit initiative founded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announces the availability of its Digital Library to non-profit educational and cultural institutions in the United States starting this summer.

The Artstor Digital Library is comprised of digital images and related data; the tools to make active use of those images; and an online environment intended to balance the interests of users with those of content providers. Artstor’s “Charter Collection” will contain approximately 300,000 digital images of visual material from different cultures and disciplines, and it seeks to offer sufficient breadth and depth to support a wide range of non-commercial educational and scholarly activities. The Charter Collection is anticipated to grow to half a million images by the summer of 2006.

Artstor was established with a mission to use digital technology to enhance scholarship, teaching and learning in the arts and associated fields. James Shulman, the Executive Director of Artstor, noted that “The impact of digitization on teaching and scholarship becomes increasingly clear every day. Artstor is working with museums, colleges, universities, libraries, archives and others around the world in an effort to ensure that these dramatic changes happen in thoughtful ways. We are excited by the chance to play a role in a community-wide effort that represents many aspects of the world’s collective cultural heritage.”

According to Neil L. Rudenstine, Artstor’s chairman and president emeritus of Harvard University, “The growing need for an accessible source of digital images has become a significant problem at many educational institutions that are using limited resources to build and sustain their own image archives. Artstor hopes to help address this need by working with institutions to build a digital collection capable of both system-wide growth and expansion at individual institutions, so that participants will have significantly more material for educational and scholarly uses.”

The Charter Collection is meant to serve as a campus-wide resource that is focused on, but not limited to, the arts. It documents artistic and historical traditions across many time-periods and cultures and has been derived from several source collections that are themselves the product of collaborations with libraries, museums, photographic archives, publishers, slide libraries, and individual scholars. Source collections include:

The Image Gallery: A collection of 200,000 images of world art and culture corresponding to the contents of a university slide library, constructed in response to college teaching needs. Since the images have been cataloged with subject headings, they will be useful both to those in the arts and in many other fields;

The Carnegie Arts of the United States
: A widely used collection of images documenting aspects of the history of American art, architecture, visual and material culture;

The Huntington Archive of Asian Art: A broad photographic overview of the art of Asia from 3000 B.C. through the present;

The Illustrated Bartsch: A collection derived from the art reference publication of the same name, containing images and data related to more than 50,000 old master European prints from the 15th to 19th Centuries;

The Mellon International Dunhuang Archive
: High resolution images of wall paintings and sculpture from the Buddhist cave shrines in Dunhuang, China, along with related objects and art from the caves that are now in museums and libraries in Europe and the United States; and

The MoMA Architecture and Design Collection
: A comprehensive collection of high resolution images representing the holdings of the Department of Architecture and Design of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Artstor has developed software tools that will allow users at participating institutions to use its Charter Collection without the need for any other software. Users will be able to view and analyze images through features such as zooming and panning. They will be able to save groups of images for personal or group uses, as well as for use in lectures and other presentation, either online or off-line.

Participation fees for Artstor’s Charter Collection are listed now at Participating in Artstor. Thirty-five test institutions have had access to the software and image repository during the past academic year, including: the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University, Hunter College, James Madison University, Johns Hopkins University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, New York University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, Smith College, University of California at San Diego, Williams College and the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute.

As William G. Bowen, the President of the Mellon Foundation, noted: “The fit between new technology and visual images is an unusually promising one. The ability to combine – and make active use of – images, data, texts and other materials offers the opportunity to bring about a substantial and exciting transformation in art-related teaching, learning, and research.”

For more information about participating in Artstor, please see the Participation Info section of the Artstor website.

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April 1, 2004

Artstor Testing: Preliminary Findings

During the 2003-2004 academic year, over thirty colleges, universities and museums have been participating in Artstor’s “test” phase. The goal of Artstor testing was to assess our progress in building the Artstor image collections and software tools. Our institutional test partners – fourteen in the fall semester of 2003, and over thirty-five in the spring of 2004 – were invited to participate on the basis of a range of considerations, but mostly because of their ability and willingness to bring diverse perspectives to bear on key aspects of Artstor’s development. Users at these test institutions have had continuous access to Artstor for use in teaching and scholarship. Institutional staff — including librarians, visual resources professionals, and instructional and information technology staff — have been working closely with Artstor to assess the testing experience. We are grateful to all these individuals for their willingness to help understand their varied interests and needs, and to provide useful guidance for improving all aspects of Artstor. A full list of our test partners is at the bottom of this page.

What follows is a brief interim report of the results of this testing. When the test phase is completed, we will update these findings and post them on the website.

Technology is an important aspect of any digital library delivery system, and the test findings led us to improve the functionality, usability, and performance of ARTstor’s technology and software. We experienced problems launching the software in some Macintosh environments. As of April, the system works on the OS10 operating system, and we anticipate that the difficulties we experienced with the earlier OS9 system will be resolved by June. We have also developed several approaches to “interoperating” with institutional digital collections and software (e.g., image management systems, learning management courseware, and other digital resources). To facilitate access for our participating institutions, we are now pursuing several approaches to authentication and authorization of end users. Most importantly, testing confirmed our belief that it is essential that ARTstor develop software that is tailored to the considerable variety of needs of its different users. Because we have chosen to build our own software rather than work only with existing software products, we believe that we have been better able to improve and adjust that software to reflect user comments and criticisms in a timely manner.

Feedback during testing also suggested that we build additional user-friendly tools to expand the possible uses of ARTstor’s content. In one specific example, our testers assisted us in designing an off-line viewer that allows the use of ARTstor content in the classroom, with no reliance on Internet connectivity. This off-line viewer was created in response to tester concerns about relying on a network connection to present images in class and by the widespread need to make presentations (in a classroom or elsewhere) without connecting to the Internet. We are very grateful to James Madison University for its generosity in allowing ARTstor to build from their code in their widely adopted MDID viewer to create the initial ARTstor Offline Viewer.

Finally, because ARTstor is hosted, launched and distributed in a way that enables users to work in an active software environment (i.e., dragging and dropping images from one saved group to another), testing allowed us to see how we needed to enhance our technological infrastructure. We improved server capacity and the load-balancing system, and also reconfigured the application server to enhance speed and performance.

Usability Testing
This fall, the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) at Johns Hopkins University worked closely with ARTstor on usability testing, including conducting one-on-one tests with users at many of the test institutions. Because of the forty-two ARTstor usability tests, and the detailed findings that the DKC reported as a result, we learned about specific barriers, which we were able to remove or ameliorate. The majority of this work will be completed prior to ARTstor’s launch this summer.

During the testing phase, we learned a great deal about the various needs of potential ARTstor users – especially about the range of potential users. While we believe it is clear that ARTstor provides value to individuals studying Art History and related fields, it also hopes to meet the broader need for a campus-wide image resource that is accessible to scholars, teachers and students across the humanities and beyond. We are also encouraged by the fact that our test phase indicated that ARTstor’s software provides the right tools for most users of digital images and is sufficiently user-friendly to enable individuals who are relatively new to digital technologies to feel comfortable using ARTstor.

Feedback also indicated that the ARTstor Charter Collection is broad enough to engage a reasonably wide audience, and to support a good range of teaching needs, as well as deep enough in some areas to support aspects of scholarly research. ARTstor continues to seek new collections to provide greater breadth as well as the depth that scholars will require. One of ARTstor’s greatest challenges in building collections is balancing the need to add a great many more images with the desire to maintain appropriately high standards of image and data quality. Various users at different test institutions championed both “sides” of this equation – some calling for more images even at lower quality and others preferring that we include only the highest quality images in ARTstor. We do not believe there is one “right” path in this area; meanwhile, we are encouraged by the fact that so many users have urged us to strike a sensible balance, and to retain our core commitment to enhancing the quality of images and data over time.

ARTstor Licensing Agreement
Licensing digital content — especially images of art — is extremely complicated. Balancing intellectual property requirements with the educational and research needs of the non-profit educational community is a challenge. Based on concerns expressed by some of the fourteen initial test institutions, we made some significant revisions to our user agreements. We held a productive half-day meeting in December 2003 with user agreement representatives from our Fall test institutions in an effort to solve common issues. The final outcome, we believe, is an agreement that balances the needs and interests of ARTstor users, of their respective institutions, and of the many institutions that help ARTstor to build its collections. The vast majority of our new test institutions signed the revised agreement with scarcely any comments or questions. Given ARTstor’s strong commitment to work with all non-profit educational institutions in order to foster the use of digital media in teaching and learning, we regard the general acceptability of this new user agreement as a very important outcome of ARTstor testing.

What ARTstor Offers
We have deliberately designed ARTstor in a way that differs in many ways from other online information resources. ARTstor is relatively unusual in providing three separate but integrated components. First, it consists of a very large and constantly growing online database of searchable images and accompanying conformation. Second, it has embedded the database in a software “tool-kit” that enables the user to search and make active use of the collections. Finally, ARTstor also provides a restricted environment through its own network that is accessible only to members of non-profit institutions. By providing a restricted network (not accessible publicly through the open internet) and by seeking to balance the interests of content providers and users, we believe that ARTstor can play an important role in working through these complex intellectual property issues in a way that individual institutions – on their own- might find extremely difficult to accomplish.

These three inter-related components and services make ARTstor very different from a straightforward online digital database purchased by a library. During the testing period, we have begun to learn about ARTstor’s “spillover” effects, including how the availability of such a resource encourages certain forms of inter-disciplinary work and begins to help with a very powerful integration of the critical related process of teaching, learning, and research.

While we have only begun to observe and assess the impact that ARTstor will have for users, we also should note how the testing period has been instructive with regard to the collaborations that have been explored and have begun to flourish across organizational boundaries; librarians, visual resources professionals, and instructional and information technology staff have come together to support the use of ARTstor. While ARTstor “lands” in the library, we will be interested to see if – or how – the broad applicability of ARTstor will be a catalyst for new organizational collaborations.

The preliminary findings from this test phase have taught us many important lessons – about almost every aspect of ARTstor. Most of the improvements we have made would not have been possible without the commitment of our testing partners, to whom we are very grateful. We believe that the contributions of all these partners – as well as the professional relationships we have been created or built upon through this process – will make ARTstor a much stronger and more useful resource for all its users.

ARTstor’s Test Partners

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Carleton College
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Emory University
  • Getty Research Institute
  • Harvard University
  • Hunter College
  • James Madison University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • National Gallery of Art
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio State University – Main Campus
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Perpich Center for Arts Education
  • Princeton University
  • Roger Williams University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Smith College
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Trinity University
  • University of California – San Diego
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Virginia
  • Walters Art Museum
  • Wesleyan University
  • William Paterson University of New Jersey
  • Williams College, Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute

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December 1, 2003

Letter from The Chairman & Executive Director

Welcome to ARTstor, an initiative of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
ARTstor’s purpose is to create a large – and indefinitely growing – database of digital images and accompanying scholarly information for use in art history and other humanistic fields of learning, including the related social sciences.

ARTstor will be a not-for-profit organization, and its materials will only be made available for use by not-for-profit educational institutions, such as colleges and universities, museums, libraries, research institutes and similar organizations. The goal is to enhance teaching, scholarship and learning in fields of knowledge that use images and associated scholarly materials for study and research, as well as in lectures, classrooms, conferences and similar settings.

ARTstor’s objective in creating its database is to carefully select “collections” that are intrinsically significant, and that have sufficient breadth, depth and coherence to make them genuinely useful to faculty, curators, students and others.

Over time, ARTstor hopes to build – in collaboration with other institutions – a database that will consist of millions of images and related data. It will include collections from a wide variety of civilizations, time-periods, and media, as well as from different sources, such as museums, archaeological sites, photo-archives, slide collections, and published materials that promise to be unusually helpful as scholarly tools. Users will be able to search across an individual “collection” in the database or across multiple collections, as a single large “library” of materials.

Participation in ARTstor will be through institutional site licenses. Fees will be set according to a sliding-scale based on a number of institutional characteristics. The object is to make participation as broad as possible across a great range of educational institutions, while generating some revenue to offset a share of ARTstor’s considerable operating costs. The ARTstor database will be able to be accessed directly by any individual who is an authenticated member of a participating institution.

ARTstor began as an organization in the early fall of 2001. During the past eighteen months, it has been creating its initial digital collections, addressing technology issues, consulting with members of the museum and academic communities, and preparing for the time – during the academic year 2003-2004 – when materials could be made available for use at educational institutions.

While we hope that these initial collections will be useful from the very start, we also want to underscore a number of important points:

First, even the initial collections will not be complete at the time of release, simply because the process of creating a coherent group of images and data is highly labor-intensive and time-consuming. The entire process – from choosing a project; reaching institutional collaborative agreements; undertaking photography (or digitizing already-existing images); updating catalog information; and guiding the entire production process carefully to ensure quality-control – is complex as well as costly, and it simply cannot be rushed. Consequently, the content and size of the initial database will inevitably be illustrative of what can be achieved over time as new material is added. We hope that, within the next eighteen months, we will have something in the range of 400,000 images and data online. But even that – measured against the infinite universe of art-objects – is obviously only the barest of beginnings.

Second, while ARTstor can do a considerable amount in creating an inter-institutional network, as well as building online collections, it is clear that no single organization can possibly do more than a small fraction of what needs to be accomplished if the national and international community of educational institutions is to be well-served. The hope, therefore, is that the ARTstor database and network can soon begin to function as a public utility that would eventually become a very broad-based co-operative enterprise, with participating institutions contributing digital materials while simultaneously benefiting from the growing database. ARTstor will exercise responsibility for maintaining – and adding significantly to – this database, just as it will maintain the complex systems (and staff) essential to this initiative. But we fully expect that there will come a time when the not-for-profit educational community of museums, colleges, universities and others will essentially “own” and operate the system.

Third, while ARTstor considers its primary purpose to be the creation and provision of digital images and related materials for scholarly and instructional use, it also hopes to do more than “deliver a product.” In fact, because so little is known about the most effective ways to build and use digital collections of this kind, we will need advice, criticism, suggestions – and even some patience! – from participating institutions, so that we can all learn together about users needs, software adaptations, image quality standards, metadata standards, and collection-building. As with any new technology, we expect that any number of mistakes will inevitably be made along the way, and that only a community-wide effort – sharing expertise, experience, and new ideas – can lead to genuinely useful and enriching results.

In the meanwhile, please read and ponder, and check back as we update the site over the coming months.

With best regards –

Neil Rudenstine and James Shulman

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