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Blog Category: Platform

January 13, 2006

ARTstor Clusters Images and Improves Image Quality

Clustering Images
Like the traditional slide library, the ARTstor Digital Library has more than its share of redundant images. Some are literally duplicates – digital images made from the same photographic source. Others are merely functionally redundant – multiple views of the same object that seem to contribute nothing extra to teaching or research. Why does ARTstor have so many duplicative images? There are two primary reasons for this duplication. First, some of ARTstor’s source collections themselves contain these redundancies. Secondly, as we are constantly adding collections, many of the new images represent works of art that are already in the ARTstor Digital Library. Often, this multiplicity increases the richness with which ARTstor documents these works; sometimes, however. it simply leads to more redundancy. Understandably, while some users welcome – or at least willingly tolerate – this variety, others find it distracting.

In order to enhance our users’ experience while working with the ARTstor Digital Library, ARTstor staff have been working behind the scenes to begin to cluster like images and to reduce this kind of duplication. We have begun to identify redundant images – both literal duplicates and “functionally redundant” images. Initially, we are focusing our efforts on a core component of the Charter Collection: those key works of art that are most frequently sought out and consulted by ARTstor users. By concentrating on de-duplicating those images that are most often searched, viewed, and saved into image groups, we hope to greatly improve the experience of a majority of our users in the very near term. And because much ARTstor use to date has revolved around teaching, our early efforts at de-duplication will likely have the greatest impact on “canonic” works of world art. But we expect to expand our effort over time in order to embrace less frequently consulted images as well, with the understanding that such duplication is much less common outside core areas of art history.

In listening to our users, we have concluded that we should not completely remove such duplicative images from ARTstor. Rather, we are clustering these images so that when users perform searches in ARTstor, they will not be confronted with myriad versions of same image. Increasingly, they will see a single image of a given work of art, with additional images clustered behind that main image. These clustered images are ones that we believe are duplicative in some meaningful sense. This icon will signal the availability of such supplementary, “clustered” images.

This approach should, over time, begin to address the dissonance some users feel when they encounter multiple versions of the same image. This strategy also preserves the user’s ability to select the image that best meets his or her immediate need as teacher or scholar – whether to illustrate a particular point, or to give a sense of how one image more faithfully represents the original object than another.

Improved Image Quality
In our continuing effort to develop the collections in the ARTstor Digital Library, we are often – and increasingly – able to provide users with truly superior digital images. Sometimes these images represent new high resolution digital photography from the original object, whether in a museum or in the Gobi Desert. In other cases, they are images scanned from large-format photographs of such objects. In order to highlight and make the most of such superlative images, our effort to cluster duplicative images has taken on an additional dimension. In addition to associating affiliated images, we are also actively drawing the user’s attention to the best image that ARTstor has to offer for a given work of art. As indicated above, we are often hesitant to make such judgement calls ourselves. But, when we have access to an image that seems, based on objective criteria, very likely to be superior and of greatest interest to our users, we are assigning this image priority in our clustering efforts.

As a result, you will typically find that a cluster of duplicative images has been appended to an image that was either made via direct digital capture from the original object (increasingly, but not always, an image contributed by the museum that owns that object) or scanned from a large- format photograph of that object (often contributed to ARTstor via collections such as the Carnegie Arts of the United States or collaborations with organizations such as Scala Archives, which create and assemble high quality photographic archives documenting museum collections, as well as architectural monuments and sites).

In some cases, such an objectively superior image will not yet be available to us for a key work of art that has been identified as a priority for de-duplication due to frequency of use. Despite the temporary absence of a superior image, we feel that it is essential to address the redundancy of these key momuments. For this reason, ARTstor users should also anticipate encountering image “clusters” in which the preferred image may not be a high resolution image. In such instances, we will continue our ongoing effort to provide superior images, guided as always by the needs of ARTstor users. So please continue to let us know how we can work to address your needs!

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January 9, 2006

Enhancements to the Digital Library

In response to user feedback, we have made enhancements to the interface of the Digital Library. These improvements should make ARTstor even easier to use, while preserving all of the existing functionality that you have come to depend on for teaching, sharing, study or research. The enhancements are concentrated in three areas: the Image Viewer, the Thumbnail and Collection Browsing pages, and the Toolbar menu. In addition, we increased the Remote Access Grace period from 14 and 90 days to 120 days for all users.

Image Viewer

  • Images can now be rotated 360 degrees within the viewer.
  • For presentation or testing purposes, users can now hide the entire caption, removing the title and creator from the Image Viewer and any descriptive information from the banner.
  • Users can now see exactly what percentage of the actual image file size they are viewing and will not be able to zoom-in past the actual size of the image.

Thumbnail and Collection Browsing Pages

  • In the Thumbnail page, images of key works of art will increasingly be “clustered” so that users have a choice whether to see multiple versions of the same image.
  • In the Thumbnail page, users can now toggle between the familiar Thumbnail mode and a new List Mode, which displays a scrollable list of all the images in an Image Group or result set with their accompanying data.
  • Registered users can now save their preferred display mode to their User Preferences.
  • While in the Collection Browsing pages, users can now expand a category to view all sub-categories by clicking on the plus sign to the left of each category.
  • The number of images within each category and sub-category is now listed in parentheses to the right of each category title.

Toolbar

  • We created separate Back and History menu buttons so that you can navigate through ARTstor in the same way that you navigate the Internet. The Back button permits users to step backwards through their recently visited pages, while the History button shows a list of the places visited during the current session.
  • We altered the wording of existing menu options in the Image Groups, View and Tools menus to make it easier for users to locate desired menu items. Please be assured that we did not remove or change the function of any menu items, just renamed them in more intuitive ways.
  • We collapsed the Collections and Browse Collection buttons into one button to provide consistency when navigating across collections.
  • We’d like to thank you all for an exciting and productive year. We appreciate hearing your suggestions, questions and concerns about ARTstor. Many of these enhancements are a direct result of user feedback; please continue to contact us so we can improve ARTstor in 2006 and beyond.

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January 9, 2006

New Version of the Offline Image Viewer Available

he latest release of the ARTstor Offline Image Viewer (version 2.5) contains additional features and enhanced functionality that were not available in previous versions of the software. Many of the new features are a direct result of user feedback and recommendations. In addition to all of the functionality of previous versions, the new release of the Offline Image Viewer will include the following new features:

  • Users can now print slides from the Slide Editor panel;
  • Images displayed in the Image Palette can be adjusted to display a caption of title and creator with each image, no caption or all descriptive information;
  • Shapes such as circles, squares and arrows can be added to a slide;
  • Colors, borders, and shading can be added to those shapes;
  • The User Preferences now permits users to select defaults for new slides such as background color and font size, type and color;
  • For those users connecting to the Internet from a valid IP address, the OIV will re-authenticate automatically; they will not have to manually renew the ARTstor certificate every thirty days;
  • Finally, Mac users will see greatly improved performance in speed when opening and progressing through presentations.

To download your new copy, click on the “Search and Browse for Images” link on the ARTstor home page and enter the Digital Library. In order to access the software, you will need to log on to your ARTstor user account first. Once logged on, click on the “Tools” toolbar button and select the option for “Download Offline Viewer “. You will be prompted to accept the Terms and Conditions of Use before downloading the software. Click on the “Accept” button to proceed.

You’ll see a window in which all currently available versions of the OIV will be listed. The recommended version for your workstation will be pre-selected for you. To download a previous version of the OIV or the version for a different operating system, click on the appropriate radio button. Click on the “Submit” button to begin your download. A pop-up window will appear prompting you to choose between opening and saving the new file. Click on the “Save” button and select a location on your computer to which you would like to save the file. The default location is your desktop. Please note, the download can take some time on slower internet connections. For detailed instructions on how to install the OIV, please visit the page Installing the OIV 2.5 on our online help website.

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