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Getty Research Institute on the Future of the BHA

posted by Christopher Howard


The Getty Research Institute just published a statement on its website regarding the future of the Bibliography on the History of Art (BHA, also known as the International Bibliography of Art, or IBA). The statement appears in full below:

In response to current economic conditions, the J. Paul Getty Trust recently announced it will significantly reduce its 2010 fiscal year budget. This will have an impact on all of the Getty’s operations, including the Getty Research Institute (GRI). Since news of the Getty’s budget reduction became public, including information about the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA), we have received some inquiries about the BHA’s future. We thought it would be helpful to review the history of the Getty’s involvement with the BHA, the current status of the database, and our expectations for its future.

From 1990, when the International Repertory of the Literature of Art (RILA) and the Répertoire d’Art et d’Archéologie (RAA) came together to form BHA, it was a joint project between the Getty and the major database producer, the Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique-CNRS. At the end of 2007, this collaboration ceased and BHA formally came to an end. Since January 2008, the GRI has continued production of the database on its own, under the name of the International Bibliography of Art (IBA), and over the last sixteen months, the GRI has made an effort to forge collaborative partnerships on the IBA both nationally and internationally.

While there is interest in seeing the database continue, there have been no formal partnership commitments and no guarantees of outside funding for the project. Unfortunately, with the GRI facing severe budget challenges and without strong and committed partners to share the work, it has become impossible for the Getty to maintain the IBA on its own. Nevertheless, the GRI continues to be interested in seeing the IBA continue its service to the art historical field.

In the near term, the IBA will continue its work, and the first of three updates to the database will be on June 30, 2009. This update will include new data (IBA), and all of the past data of BHA and RILA. It will not contain RAA. This June 30 update will also include the updates from December 31, 2008 and March 31, 2009, which were delayed for technical reasons. All subscribers will also receive scheduled updates on September 30, and December 31, 2009.

Beginning January 1, 2010, the Getty will no longer support the ongoing IBA. We are hopeful that by this time the IBA will be transferred to an organization that can provide continuing support for this valuable resource. Our goal is to move the BHA/IBA to an organization that will provide a transfer in service smooth enough that subscribers may not even notice. We are hopeful that the same distributors will be used after January 1, 2010, and that updates will continue in a regular way.

We will keep the art historical community informed as this process develops. At this time, we would like to express our gratitude to the art reference librarians, art historians, and graduate students whose support has sustained RILA/BHA/IBA for over 29 years. We look forward to your continued support during this period of transition.

Last week CAA published a short statement addressing its concerns about this invaluable database for academic research in the visual arts.



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