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FIELD REPORT

posted by CAA — Aug 07, 2012

Doralynn Pines is an independent scholar and consultant based in New York and a member of the CAA Board of Directors. She served as associate director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and was chief librarian of the museum’s central research library.

The Digital World Meets Art History at Princeton University

On July 12, 2012, the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University in New Jersey sponsored a one-day conference that covered topics of digital archiving, research, and technical innovation in art history. Entitled “The Digital World of Art History: Databases, Initiatives, Policies, and Practices,” the conference was attended by almost one hundred art historians, art librarians, and museum and visual-resources curators. The year 2012 marks the ninety-fifth anniversary of the index, which was founded in 1917 by Charles Rufus Morey. The anniversary also celebrates the fact that the index’s information, held in library reserves for decades, has evolved into a growing digital database for use by scholars all over the world.

Organized by Colum Hourihane, director of the index, the conference featured eighteen invited speakers who discussed topics as varied as the future of art bibliography (Carole Ann Fabian, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University), copyright, scholarship, and fair use in the fine arts (Gretchen Wagner, ARTstor), art-historical research (Gwen David, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Queens College, City University of New York), and a database of performances of medieval narratives (Evelyn [Timmie] Birge Vitz and Marilyn Lawrence, both from New York University). Melitte Buchman, also of NYU, spoke about current best digital practices. The Morgan Library and Museum was represented by curators and librarians (Maria Oldal, Elizabeth O’Keefe, William Voelkle), who described their recently completed collaboration with the index. Approximately 58,000 images from over nine hundred Western medieval and Renaissance manuscripts will soon be available through the Morgan Library’s website and through the index.

Several talks outlined exciting new digital projects currently underway at Princeton, including databases and new initiatives at the index (Judith Golden, Jessica Savage, Beatrice Radden Keefe, Jon Niola, Henry Schilb), in the Visual Resources Collection (Trudy Jacoby), and in the Digital Humanities Initiative (David Mimno). Sandra Ludig Brooke, a librarian at the Marquand Library of Art and Archeology, spoke about the Blue Mountain Project, a team effort of scholars and librarians to catalogue, and make freely available, digital editions of avant-garde arts journals produced in Europe and North America between 1848 and 1923. The project is off to a running start with a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To wrap up the conference, Eleanor Fink of the World Bank Group presented “Art Clouds: Reminiscences and Prospects for the Future,” a look back at the well-known projects she oversaw during her tenure at the Getty Information Institute, including the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), the Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), and the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA). She also noted how far the field had come, with collaborative and cross-platform efforts being the norm. In looking to future prospects for seamless access to art information, Fink pointed to Linked Open Data and some recent projects that have begun to use it.

Hourihane has just announced the online publication of the papers on the Index of Christian Art website.

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