As part of our Open Artstor initiative, we are making an increasing number of Creative Commons-licensed museum, library, and archive collections freely accessible to everyone on our platform — already a destination for scholars using visual media. The collections have been selected for their value to the humanities and sciences, providing researchers with a central place in which to discover and use open images from a wide variety of sources alongside other relevant materials.
Blog Category: Public collections
The history of ornithology (the scientific study of birds) has involved observations captured in imagery going as far back as prehistoric stone-age drawings. As ornithology developed as a natural science it faced the aesthetic challenge of convincingly capturing depictions of different bird species, leading to beautifully documented and historically fascinating works of illustration.
Several Artstor public collections — available freely to anyone — showcase ornithological illustration starting as early as the 16th century and on through to the 19th century. Here are three of our favorites:
Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology Gallery of Bird and Wildlife Art has more than 1,000 works of art from the last two centuries by bird artists such as Alexander Wilson, John James Audubon, and Louis Agassiz Fuertes.
Books of hours are devotional texts that contain a personalized selection of prayers, hymns, psalms, and New Testament excerpts chosen specifically for their owner. Popular in the Middle Ages, the most expensive of these books could be highly decorated, but the more affordable versions usually only showed minimal decoration, usually of the first letter of a page. They had, in fact, become so popular by the 16th century that they were often owned by people from all walks of society; servants even had their own copies—there is a court case from 1500 where a pauper woman was accused of stealing a servant’s book of hours.
Relics—bits of bone, clothing, shoes or dust—from Christian martyrs became popular in Western Christianity in the Middle Ages. The cult of relics dates back to the second and third centuries, when martyrs were persecuted and often killed in ways that fragmented the body, which was taboo in Roman society. The intention was to desecrate the body through execution and burning. But, Caroline Walker Bynum and Paula Gerson state that by the “late third to early fourth centuries the fragments of the martyrs had come to be revered as loci of power and special access to the divine” and, by the Second Council of Nicea in 787, relics were required for the consecration of altars.
The CRAFT: Babka and Beyond public collection features 28 interviews conducted with people connected to the production and use of grain within the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Western Pennsylvania. The stories feature bakers, bakery owners, farmers, and even a Benedictine Monk talking about how grains contribute to larger themes of identity, community, and social capital — whether in agriculture, bread making, or baking.
Richard H. Truly was the first person to be launched into space on his birthday when he piloted the Space Shuttle Columbia on November 12, 1981. In 1989 he would become the eighth NASA Administrator, the first astronaut to hold the position. Two public collections in Artstor from Regis University document the astronaut’s fascinating career via papers and media.
The Allegheny College Egyptian Hieroglyphics collection features every page of a single manuscript in the James Winthrop Collection. The collection includes approximately 3,000 titles from the libraries of Winthrop and his father, John Winthrop, who was Hollis Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics at Harvard. This particular manuscript is in the public domain, and Allegheny has shared this digital reproduction as a Public Collection in Artstor so that anyone can view and download the images.
On this day in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, bringing widespread attention to environmental issues caused by the use of synthetic pesticides in the United States. The book sparked controversy, particularly from chemical companies that dismissed Silent Spring’s assertions about the connection between pesticides and ecological health. However, Carson’s claims were borne out and the book is widely credited with sparking the modern environmental movement that eventually spawned the Environmental Protection Agency.
Punk flyers from the 1970s to the 1990s shared many of the qualities of the music they promoted–a DIY aesthetic, an embrace of cheap and accessible technology (i.e., photocopiers), plus a healthy dose of humor. In contrast to the often ornate Art Nouveau-inspired rock posters of the psychedelic 1960s, punk flyers typically featured dissonant collages, crude handwriting, and amateurish drawing–not to mention a strict limitation of color.
An update from our friends at The New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA)
Last summer, The New Hampshire Institute of Art’s John Teti Rare Photography Book and Print Collection received a second major gift from collector and philanthropist John Teti. This gift contained original photographic prints of many leading 20th-century photographers, including Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro, Imogen Cunningham, Lee Friedlander, Andre Kertesz, Man Ray, Minor White, and more. These works are now being added via JSTOR Forum to the NHIA Photograph Collection, which is available as a Public Collection on Artstor. The collection has now grown to nearly 600 images.