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Case Studies and Examples for Evaluating Digital Scholarship

posted by Michelle Millar Fisher

Strong case studies of digital humanities scholarship exist, and compelling resources continue to proliferate. Scholarly societies, including the American Historical Association (AHA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and more recently the College Art Association (CAA), and Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) have developed guidelines for use by institutions and individuals. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CAA and SAH formed a joint task force that explored existing guidelines and literature, surveyed faculty and administrators, and developed Guidelines for the Evaluation of Digital Scholarship in Art and Architectural History. Adopted by the boards of both societies, the guidelines are available for download on the SAH and CAA websites and we encourage their adoption and use. The task force reviewed many resources in the course of eighteen months. Some of these are described below to provide a context for current digital evaluation in addition to the recently published CAA/SAH guidelines.

Sources such as the Journal of Interactive Pedagogy and Pedagogy and Manifold Scholarship, and sites such as Mapping Gothic France, HyperCities, and are places where digital scholarship is being practiced, peer reviewed, and successfully included in promotion and tenure portfolios. Benchmark portals such as the NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship) NEH Summer Institutes (Storify of the proceedings can be found here) offer useful white papers: “Digital Humanities Scholarship: Recommendations for Chairs in Language and Literature Departments“; “Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure Committees in Judging Digital Work”; and “Statement on Authorship.” Kristine M. Bartanen’s excellent “Digital Scholarship and the Tenure and Promotion Process“ contains valuable guidance. Published to Academic Commons in July 2014, Bartenan provides a comprehensive literature review and resource portal for the evaluation of digital scholarship. The review contains both model guidelines for promotion and tenure and appendices for a range of resources, literature, and organizations pertinent to understanding and developing evaluation methods.

In the fall of 2012 the Journal of Digital Humanities published their fourth issue, which centered on the “importance of assessment and the scholarly vetting process around digital scholarship.”[1] (The full journal issue can be accessed here.) The issue addresses the need for guidelines and dialogue for assessing digital scholarship in the humanities, offers case studies and examples, and reflects on the successes, issues, and failures of the methods employed. Though much of the content is not art or architectural history-specific, it is still relevant to CAA’s and SAH’s memberships. A broad overview of the contents of this journal issue is provided below so that readers can zero in on the material most germane to their own needs. Readers are encouraged to make use of the excellent bibliographies attached to each of the issue’s essays.

The issue is divided into four major sections: “The Problem Stated,” “Approaches,” “Institutional Guidelines,” and “Resources.” In the introductory section of “Living in a Digital World: Rethinking Peer Review, Collaboration, and Open Access,” Sheila Cavanagh highlights the importance of retraining processes and expectations of evaluation around digital scholarship, including “encouraging faculty who hire, tenure, and mentor junior scholars to acknowledge the complicated factors in the world of digital scholarship . . . for example, faculty often have difficulty identifying appropriate experts to participate in more traditional peer review processes.”[2] In “Evaluating Collaborative Digital Scholarship (or, Where Credit is Due),” Bethany Nowviskie highlights the inability of many humanities evaluative committees to adequately understand and appropriately review and reward the type of collaborative work that digital scholarship is often predicated upon. She contends that “the T&P [tenure and promotion] process is a poor fit to good assessment (or even, really, to acknowledgement) of collaborative work, because it has evolved to focus too much on a particular fiction. That fiction is one of ‘final outputs’ in digital scholarship.”[3]

The “Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights“ from UCLA’s Digital Humanities program provides important guidance about how to understand, review, and reward collaborative digital humanities scholarship, especially in light of hierarchies of power experienced by student and “alt-ac” collaborators.[4] Nowviskie hails certain aspects of the AHA Guidelines for Evaluation of Digital Scholarship, particularly their underscoring of collaborative digital work as a type of perpetual peer review. At a National Endowment for the Humanities “Off the Tracks” workshop in 2011, Nowviskie, Matt Kirschenbaum, Doug Reside, and Tom Scheinfeldt collaborated on a provocative “Bill of Rights” for collaborators that might serve as a guidepost for promotion and tenure committees to consider. In Nowviskie’s words, “We drew on our experience administering MITH [Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities], the Scholars’ Lab, and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media—three centers that are sites for a great deal of collaboration among people who may have similar backgrounds as scholars and technologists, but whose formal institutional status may vary a great deal. We drafted something we called a ‘Collaborators’ Bill of Rights,’ which was later endorsed by the full workshop assembly and posted for public comment. Basically, it’s an appeal for fair, honest, legible, portable (this is important!), and prominently displayed crediting mechanisms. It also offers a dense expression of underlying requirements for healthy collaboration and adequate assessment from the point of view of practicing digital humanists, with special attention to the vulnerabilities of early-career scholars and staff or non-tenure-track faculty.” Their recommendations are as follows:

  1. Committees must consider not only the products of digital work but the processes by which the work was (and perhaps continues to be) co-created;
  2. Scholars (even while they ask to have their critical agency as individuals taken seriously in tenure and promotion cases) are obligated to make the most generous and inclusive statements possible about the contributions of others;
  3. Credit should be expressed richly and descriptively, but also in increasingly standardized forms, legible within a variety of disciplines and communities of practice;
  4. We must negotiate expressions of shared credit at the outset of projects and continually, as projects evolve;
  5. We must promote fair institutional policies and practices in support of shared assertion of credit, such as those which make collective and individual ownership over intellectual property meaningful and actionable;
  6. And, finally, we must accept that collaborators themselves, regardless of rank or status, have the ultimate authority and responsibility for expressing their contributions and the nature of their roles.

Other relevant literature includes Todd Presner’s essay “How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship,” directed at the audiences within the art and architectural history-specific community: “The document is aimed, foremost, at Academic Review Committees, Chairs, Deans, and Provosts who want to know how to assess and evaluate digital scholarship in the hiring, tenure, and promotion process. Secondarily, the document is intended to inform the development of university-wide policies for supporting and evaluating such scholarship.”[5] Presner offers a succinct and clear checklist for promotion and tenure boards, engaging them in dialogue around initial review, crediting, intellectual rigor, impact, peer review, and experimentation, among other topics.

Geoffrey Rockwell’s “Short Guide to Evaluation of Digital Work” deepens and extends Presner’s checklist in compelling and practicable ways, and Laura Mandell’s essay “Promotion and Tenure for Digital Scholarship” offers a useful and clear coda full of concrete examples such as the HyperCities project and Voyant, a software text analysis tool. It is not overstating the importance of these three essays alone to suggest that every promotion and tenure board member might be asked to read them to educate themselves on the shifting boundaries of their discipline, and the ways in which their analysis of promotion and tenure portfolios must change and adapt. In addition, in the third section of the journal issue, the MLA’s Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media is similarly designed to “help departments and faculty members implement effective evaluation procedures for hiring, reappointment, tenure, and promotion. They apply to scholars working with digital media as their subject matter and to those who use digital methods or whose work takes digital form.”[6]

James Smithies’s essay “Evaluating Scholarly Digital Outputs: The Six Layers Approach” offers a different style of checklist, a bird’s-eye view of the different types of digital scholarship output, but one that is most useful if the reader—part of a promotion and tenure board or otherwise—is already informed about and open to considering digital scholarship on par with analog modes. Katherine D. Harris’s “Explaining Digital Humanities in Promotion Documents” is a comprehensive and fruitful overview of her foray into learning “how best to sell Digital Humanities, scholarly editing, and Digital Pedagogy to my colleagues.”[7] Harris, associate professor of English literature at San Jose State University, shares her statement for promotion and her approach to the practical question of formatting and outlining her digital scholarship as part of her promotion and tenure binder. With few models to consult, she crowdsourced her questions via Twitter and other channels in order to produce her promotion and tenure document, finally settling on a narrative-based approach that outlines her own collaborative and individual contributions to the field, and includes examples of her concrete research and pedagogy projects in progress and completed, publications, conferences, and supporting quotations from the Digital Humanities Community Wiki and Digital Humanities Now.

While every essay in the fall 2012 Journal of Digital Humanities issue is well worth consultation, the final resource to flag is the MLA’s “Evaluation Wiki of the Committee on Information Technology.” This report takes the form of a checklist of documents that digital scholars should amass as part of preparation for promotion and tenure, and it might be used in tandem with Harris’s model statement.

Both CAA and SAH leadership teams encourage the wide dissemination and adoption of the newly published guidelines, as well as a CAA 2017 panel or forum models that facilitate questions, feedback, and discussion around the issues raised.

Michelle Millar Fisher is a doctoral candidate in Architectural History at the CUNY Graduate Center and a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art.

[1] Daniel J. Cohen and Joan Fragaszy Troyano, “Closing the Evaluation Gap,” Journal of Digital Humanities vol. 1, no. 4 (Fall 2012): i. They continued: “As digital humanities continues to grow and as more scholars and disciplines become invested in its methods and results, institutions and scholars increasingly have been debating how to maintain academic rigor while accepting new genres and the openness that the web promotes.”

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 17.

[4] Authored by Haley Di Pressi, Stephanie Gorman, Miriam Posner, Raphael Sasayama, and Tori Schmitt, with contributions from Roderic Crooks, Megan Driscoll, Amy Earhart, Spencer Keralis, Tiffany Naiman, and Todd Presner, this document endorses the Collaborators Bill of Rights, developed during the workshop “Off the Tracks—Laying New Lines for Digital Humanities Scholars” held at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), January 20–21, 2011, and described below. The UCLA document adds principles to safeguard students when working on projects with scholars who are senior to them.

[5] Ibid, 36.

[6] Ibid, 91–94.

[7] Ibid, 71.

The College Art Association (CAA), working jointly with the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), has released its Guidelines for the Evaluation of Digital Scholarship in Art and Architectural History for Promotion and Tenure. The guidelines are the result of a Task Force convened by the two associations of ten members from the academic community with experience in digital research, publication, and/or scholarly communications and administration. Established by the Board of Directors in October 2014 and supported by funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this joint task force of CAA and SAH was co-chaired by DeWitt Godfrey, president, CAA and professor of art and art history, Colgate University; and Kenneth Breisch, SAH president and assistant professor, School of Architecture, University of Southern California.

See the SAH announcement.

The project methodology was developed through a collaborative process involving the Task Force, consultant, researcher, and representatives from CAA and SAH. Research components included results from surveys of CAA and SAH members and department chairs, a similar questionnaire for graduate students, interviews with scholars and administrators, research on existing disciplinary and institutional evaluation guidelines, and a review of relevant literature. Alice Lynn McMichael, PhD candidate in Byzantine art history and digital fellow at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, and Raym Crow, principal at Chain Bridge Group served as researcher and consultant.

In addition to a review of current guidelines and current literature on the topic, the researcher was charged with balancing broad survey data with more in-depth discussions of topics that resonate with evaluators of digital work. To this end, interviews were conducted with constituents from sixteen institutions across the United States that produce digital work regularly in art and/or architectural history. Institutions were either public and private and research-intensive or teaching-focused. Interviewees at those institutions had varying academic ranks and included department members, librarians, provosts, deans, chairs, and directors of humanities centers or similar.

Highlights from surveys from CAA and SAH members and interviews include the following:

  • Most CAA respondents, across all professional ranks, have never used data gathering and imaging tools (83%), data analysis and visualization tools (80%), three-dimensional modeling (75%), digital storage and preservation tools (73%), and geospatial analysis tools (65%).
  • Many characteristics of digital resources were generally valued as important, with the highest importance placed on permanent archiving, documentation of the resource, and ease of use; and relatively less importance on the availability of underlying data, financial sustainability, and permanent citation.
  • Graduate students report the highest confidence in evaluating digital scholarship.
  • Less than 4 percent of total respondents knew of existing evaluative criteria for digital scholarship in their departments.
  • The largest barrier to digital scholarship is lack of access to training.

Read the full Guidelines here. An essay, “Case Studies and Examples for Evaluating Digital Scholarship”  by Michelle Millar Fisher, a task force member, provides background information on evaluating digital resources and can be found on the College Art Association website.

Members of the Task Force included:

  • Suzanne Preston Blier, Allen Whitehall Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
  • Kenneth Breisch, SAH President, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of Southern California, and Cochair of Task Force
  • Linda Downs (ex officio), Executive Director, College Art Association
  • Gabrielle Esperdy, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Editor of SAH Archipedia
  • Michelle Miller Fisher, PhD Candidate, Art History, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, and Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
  • Pamela M. Fletcher, Professor of Art History, Chair of Art Department, and Codirector of Digital and Computational Studies Initiative, Bowdoin College
  • DeWitt Godfrey, CAA President, Professor of Art and Art History, Colgate University, and Cochair of Task Force
  • Anne Collins Goodyear, Codirector, Bowdoin College Museum of Art
  • Paul Jaskot, Professor, History of Art and Architecture, DePaul University, and Andrew W. Mellon Professor, CASVA
  • Bruce M. Mackh, Director, Arts and Cultural Management Program, Michigan State University
  • Tara McPherson, Associate Professor, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
  • Abby Smith Rumsey, Former Director, Scholarly Communication Institute, University of Virginia
  • Pauline Saliga (ex officio), Executive Director, Society of Architectural Historians
  • Ann Whiteside, Librarian and Assistant Dean of Information Services, Harvard University

About CAA

The College Art Association is dedicated to providing professional services and resources for artists, art historians, and students in the visual arts. CAA serves as an advocate and a resource for individuals and institutions nationally and internationally by offering forums to discuss the latest developments in the visual arts and art history through its Annual Conference, publications, exhibitions, website, and other programs, services, and events. CAA focuses on a wide range of issues, including education in the arts, freedom of expression, intellectual-property rights, cultural heritage, preservation, workforce topics in universities and museums, and access to networked information technologies. Representing its members’ professional needs since 1911, CAA is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, criticism, and teaching. Learn more at

About SAH

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by vocation or avocation, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs. Learn more at


Digital Art History

posted by Linda Downs

The conference titled “New Projects in Digital Art History” was presented Friday, November 19, 2014 by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art and included six major digital art and architectural projects. This conference follows a series of digital art history conferences held last summer: . Many of the projects presented are not so new as they have been in development for many years. The presenters, however, focused on the latest methods, technology and new directions in research that has evolved.

Some of the latest technologies employed are:
• digital mapping and graphing to capture the changing construction projects in Auschwitz in order to gain an understanding of the context of the entire site: ;
• GIS layered mapping devices to build an evolving geo-database to accurately present the changing urban structures of Rome over a 2000 year history:;
• large data visualizing systems to show the flow of art objects, money and people in the Getty Research Institute Index which consists of 1.5 million records of archival inventories, sale catalogs and dealer stock books from Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands (1800 to 1820):;
• word and image systems that serve to integrate and mirror an illustrated text from the High Renaissance:;
• visual and gaming systems such as one called Unity that allowed navigation through digitally reconstructed models of two Roman villas buried by volcanic ash during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE:; and
• visualization technologies utilized in the Visualizing Venice Project at the Duke University Digital Visualization Workshop: .

Each of these extraordinary digital art and architectural history projects employ teams of scholars in many fields beyond art and architectural history such as geography, engineering, statistics, linguistics and gaming technology. Their focus in on digital computation. The projects approach history, as the sociologist Charles Tilly advocated several decades ago, by utilizing “big structures, large processes, huge comparisons.” They have gathered mammoth amounts of data subjected to a broad range of analytical digital tools to visualize, compare and determine trends. The scholars have spent years gathering data and building systems with many being supported by their universities and foundations. These projects have brought to light new knowledge that could only be based on the digital possibilities of aggregated information that are revealed through visual technology.

The demands of time and attention to detail were most evident in the project which focused on mapping Rome. James T. Tice, professor, University of Oregon presented the growth and decline of physical Rome in maps ranging from the 3rd century to the present; each map is more highly detailed and grander in scope, scale and beauty (he demonstrated the size of two 18th century maps by overlays of a Volkswagen and an elephant). The ultimate goal is to track the growth and decline of every street, building, piazza and sewer. I imagined this team as a digital scriptorium working on palimpsests with painful precision. What took medieval monks generations to copy and preserve is taking this team only a few years via digital technology. The teams’ sources include maps made from fresco fragments to photogrammetic images taken from low-flying planes.

The Visualizing Venice Project led by Caroline Bruzelius, Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art History, Duke University, has similar goals but a different approach to working as a group. While the majority of the other projects presented at the conference might be loosely described as ‘parallel play’ this project integrates scholars, students and public issues. As Caroline Bruzelius stated, it “seeks to engage the public (residents, tourists, students) in ways that social, economic, religious, and technological changes (the railroad, for example) transform cities and their surrounding environments.”

In the Reconsideration of the Vernacular Architecture of Auschwitz, another group project that Paul Jaskot, Mellon Professor, CASVA, has been working on for fifteen years and his team for the past five years, is investigating this place of horror to broaden the understanding of the camp as prison, planning and construction site, a future town and a place that reflected the maniacal ambitions of the SS. One of the many goals of this project is to write the history of the experience of the prisoner since all previous architectural history has been limited to studies of individual buildings based solely on SS documentation. It has mapped out the hundreds of buildings from both a bird’s eye view and from movement through the buildings on the ground. The team on this project has also graphed temporal changes of construction, destruction and rebuilding using graphs. They found new insight not only into the constant change of architectural plans and construction but were able to link a high number of prisoner escapes in 1943 and 1944 when construction and destruction projects in the camp were hectic and chaotic. Jaskot called this discovery “information hiding in plain sight” that is greatly assisted by large data crunching.

My thoughts during the conference reflected on the challenges the task force will face that CAA and the Society of Architectural Historians have established to develop guidelines for digital art and architectural history for promotion and tenure through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  I came away with more questions posed than answered.

First, art and architectural historians traditionally do research and publish independently. How can PhD students and faculty be prepared either to work in a digital research as part of a group or, if not in a group, master digital technology that has been mainly been developed in other fields. Digital humanities centers, the recent conferences, SAH’s JSAH, CAA hands-on workshops and sharing programs at THAT Camp have provided important information on the kinds of digital systems that have been utilized by art and architectural historians. Are these introductions enough or, should new technology be incorporated into every program for art history majors and be required for entry into graduate programs?

New definitions of ‘new knowledge’ and impact factors need to be developed to recognize, encourage and evaluate digital scholarship. Should the definition of new knowledge include the development of new digital systems and apps or is it the content that should be evaluated? How does one evaluate the effectiveness of visualization technologies to support a thesis? Current impact factors such as bibliometric indicators, citations, acknowledgements and awards need redefinition to encompass digital projects. When are digital projects like this ‘finished’ or ‘published?’ When are they considered ‘stable’ enough to be peer reviewed or cited? Each one of the projects presented could continue to be developed over generations of scholars. Should definable versions be demarcated when new systems are continually added to address better visualization, data aggregating and upgrading? How can the collaborative contributions be disentangled to assign credit and evaluate a single person’s contribution? Or, should the evaluation solely focus on the team? Is it necessary to publish a separate summary of the digital research project for promotion and tenure committees? Will this be the sole ‘publication’ that results from the digital project? Or should the promotion and tenure committees also review the digital working site?

The digital projects presented at CASVA clearly attest to the important value that digital computational technology brings to research. As digital projects continue to be developed by faculty and students the field has the challenge of embracing them by readjusting and broadening past practices. The questions here are just a few that the task force will be discussing with the assistance of information gleaned from member surveys and interviews with art and architectural history chairs and provosts. These guidelines will provide one step toward the exciting transformation of research and publishing that digital technology brings to the visual arts field.

Filed under: Art History, Digital Issues

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the College Art Association (CAA) a $90,000 grant to partner with the Society for Architectural Historians (SAH) in the development of guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship in art and architectural history for promotion and tenure. CAA and SAH will convene a task force, hire a researcher to examine evaluative practices in departments of art and architectural history, develop a survey to seek current practices from CAA and SAH members, and provide evaluative guidelines. CAA President DeWitt Godfrey said, “Since its founding in 1911, CAA has regularly issued Standards and Guidelines for the fields of art and art history. These guidelines will encompass projects in art and architectural history that use digital technologies in research, production, publication, and/or exhibition. These growing forms of scholarship are in critical need of support and recognition, and this grant will allow CAA and SAH to provide standardized guidelines for those evaluating digital art and architectural history.”

This project will mark the first time that CAA and SAH will collaborate on professional practice guidelines, although the two associations have worked closely in other areas in the past. Pauline Saliga, SAH executive director announced, “The Society of Architectural Historians is pleased to collaborate with our sister organization, the College Art Association, on this important endeavor.  Because art and architectural historians are increasingly working collaboratively and using digital tools and data to construct their arguments, it is very important that we develop a set of guidelines for universities to recognize this innovative work.”

The ten-person task force will be chaired by CAA President DeWitt Godfrey and SAH President Ken Breisch. In addition to the chairs, the task force will comprise eight members with substantial experience in traditional and digital scholarship: two art historians, two architectural historians, a librarian, a museum curator, a scholar from another humanities or social-science field with expertise in digital scholarship, and a graduate student or emerging professional in art or architectural history.

The need for evaluative guidelines has been expressed by professors of art and architectural history who have developed research and/or publications using digital technologies, have created new digital tools for interpretation and understanding of art-historical and place-based subjects, or have collaborated with other scholars to develop digital archives and resources; by professors and administrators who have responsibility for dissertations and promotion and tenure committees but lack the necessary tools to assess digital scholarship; by CAA’s and SAH’s editorial boards and advisory committees, whose journals and online academic resources now require guidelines to facilitate critical reviews of digital scholarship; by CAA and SAH publication and award juries who need protocols for judging the quality of digital scholarship to determine awards; by academic publishers; and by other disciplines and their learned societies.

CAA and SAH anticipate that the guidelines will address different types of scholarly digital contributions: those that provide new resources, such as archives and new research tools (examples include SAH Archipedia and SAHARA); those that create scholarship in art and architectural history using publishing platforms such as Scalar and the JSTOR Current Scholarship program; those that create scholarship based on spatial and visualization technologies; and those that engage in new computational technologies.

CAA and SAH anticipate that shared guidelines will reassure art and architectural historians that new forms of digital research and scholarship will be evaluated and credentialed; provide tenure committees with specific criteria for evaluating digital projects in art and architectural history; and ensure that digital scholarship can be evaluated and supported through juries and grants, thereby increasing awareness and participation of scholars in the digital realm.

About CAA

The College Art Association is dedicated to providing professional services and resources for artists, art historians, and students in the visual arts. CAA serves as an advocate and a resource for individuals and institutions nationally and internationally by offering forums to discuss the latest developments in the visual arts and art history through its Annual Conference, publications, exhibitions, website, and other programs, services, and events. CAA focuses on a wide range of issues, including education in the arts, freedom of expression, intellectual-property rights, cultural heritage, preservation, workforce topics in universities and museums, and access to networked information technologies. Representing its members’ professional needs since 1911, CAA is committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, criticism, and teaching. Learn more at

About SAH

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by vocation or avocation, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs. Learn more at

For more information, please contact Hillary Bliss, CAA development and marketing manager, at or 212-392-4436.

Digital Art History Takes Off

posted by Linda Downs

Written by Anne Collins Goodyear and Paul B. Jaskot.

This summer four institutes held on the east and west coasts provided opportunities for art historians—both academics and museum professionals—to increase their familiarity with the tools and opportunities presented by a computational approach to “doing” art history. These programs, underwritten by the Getty and Samuel H. Kress Foundations took place at Harvard’s metaLAB (Beautiful Data: Telling Stories About Art with Open Collections, June 16–27, Getty Foundation), George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (Rebuilding the Portfolio: DH for Art Historians, July 7–18, Getty Foundation), UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program (Beyond the Digitized Library, July 28–August 6, Getty Foundation), and Middlebury College (Summer Institute on Digital Mapping and Art History, August 3–15, Kress Foundation). The firm groundwork laid by these programs as well as the enthusiastic response by participants suggest that the field of art history is in an ever-stronger position to take advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies and to lead the digital humanities in key areas.

Each program had its own personality and addressed different needs in the field. At Harvard, attendees found themselves working on digital archival collections and exploring different approaches to using this kind of information, such as curating, annotating, and visualizing digital collections. The institute at George Mason provided self-identified newcomers to digital scholarship with broad exposure to digital environments and specific tools, including the use of social media, data mining, and visualization techniques. UCLA organizers focused on methodological and theoretical issues at stake in the digital humanities and encouraged participants to critically address their approaches. A one-day conference on publishing and the digital environment at UCLA allowed participants and audience members a chance to reflect on participant’s projects and the future of digital scholarship. For the Kress mapping institute, fellows were asked to come prepared with specific spatial questions related to their area of research and to include a database of spatial information. In the short period of the workshop, they were exposed to the methods of digital mapping through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and, on the last day, presented extraordinary maps of their own that pushed their research questions forward. Collectively, the summer institutes show the diversity of approaches as well as the depth of interest in digital scholarship, something unusual for any humanities field in recent years.

Digital or computational art history has been gaining ground since the advent of innovative projects like the Digital Roman Forum and Mapping Gothic France, among others. Work in our discipline has been further sustained by new publishing venues for digital work. These include not only new authoring and publishing platforms such as HyperCities and Scalar, but also more substantial interventions in long-standing print periodicals, such as the Journal of Society of Architectural Historians online edition, which allows authors to include a variety of digital formats with their texts. Indeed, CAA’s adoption of an electronic format for its print journals earlier this year through its partnership with Taylor & Francis continues the important role of facilitating new sorts of scholarly publishing.

More important, however, are the new forms of analysis and data sharing that digital art history makes possible or, alternatively, the ways in which digital methods push known scholarly questions in innovative and exciting directions. Addressing the “stuff” of art history from a computational standpoint may initially seem counter-intuitive, particularly given the field’s propensity for qualitative analysis and the stress placed on our ability to look closely. However, reflection upon the nature of the information we might encounter, particularly in the era of “big data,” suggests how rapidly the field might benefit from alternatives to traditional research methods. Depending on the nature of the art-historical problem, such analysis may involve the identification of trends in bodies of literature: the use of certain key terms for example, and their frequency. It may enable us to identify economic, social, or stylistic relationships between key entities through network analysis. It may utilize tools to analyze more minutely geographic settings and the relationships between buildings and human actors, or to study the physical evolution of sites over time. Each of the summer institutes took a different approach to these possibilities, with some offering a wide view while others provided a more focused set of inquiries. Tweets from the UCLA colloquium and the individual workshops have been gathered at #doingdah14.

While the summer institutes show the energy around the digital humanities in art history, CAA has also been continuing its strong investment in responding to member interest in this area. For example, in addition to hosting its third annual THAT (The Humanities And Technology) Camp, CAA will offer a number of digital humanities workshops at the upcoming CAA Annual Conference in February in order to meet the needs of both artists and art historians. These include: Building Scholarly Digital Archives and Exhibits with Omeka; Scalar; and Making Sense of Digital Images, which explores how to describe and develop optimal reproductions, both for current projects and for preservation.

Furthermore, CAA is now examining the question of tenure and promotion based on projects using digital tools. In our reading of the field, the digital future of art-historical scholarship rests in part, and for the near future, on its acceptance by those responsible for evaluating tenure and promotion applications. Since 1973, CAA has formulated and published standards and guidelines on its website after careful research and ratification by its Board of Directors, thereby offering guidance to arts institutions as they create policies and make decisions. In a 2005 addendum to CAA’s current guidelines concerning tenure, the Association recognized “that the well-documented “crisis” in scholarly publishing in the humanities is especially acute for art historians, and threatens the integrity and continuity of the discipline if colleges and universities continue to insist on books as the chief criterion for tenure and promotion.” This concern grows larger with the development of new forms of digital publishing.

Other scholarly societies have developed or are investigating guidelines, including the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association. Professional literature also addresses the need and components for useful guidelines in The Journal of Digital Humanities, society reports, and in compendiums such as Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew Gold (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Digital­­_Humanities, by Peter Lunenfeld, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012). Additionally, NEH-funded workshops have addressed the need for guidelines, including an institute sponsored by NINES.[1] These initial efforts to promulgate advancement and tenure guidelines serve as models for other humanities disciplines.

An equally crucial question facing the field is the sustainability of digital scholarship, particularly in light of the rapid development of new technologies. Rather than allowing such scholarship to “sit on the shelf,” digital work must be networked in order to survive. The question of the interoperability of the programs utilized for scholarship aside, technology platforms become outmoded and CD-ROMs, disks, and external drives will inevitably deteriorate. The field would benefit from the development of “best practices” for the creation of digital scholarship, from mechanisms of data storage and retrieval, to the development of trustworthy digital repositories, and a careful analysis of the benefit of open-source versus proprietary software for particular forms of writing and data analysis. In addition, funding institutions need to consider the need for further training, like the four summer institutes, to assess what works and what doesn’t for the long-term sustenance of new scholarly innovation.

Despite these challenges, which may, in fact be invitations for future collaborations among art historians and across disciplines, the realm of the digital offers exciting new possibilities. Perhaps most significantly, digital scholarship may demonstrate the significance of some of the skills we tend to take for granted as humanists and experts in visual analysis: namely the ability to think critically about the function and production of images and language, as well as the source of these representations. Just what assumptions may be embedded in the very way we interact with the digital realm and how might we tease that apart? Digital art history, then, permits not only a new way for us to interrogate our data and our own assumptions, but for the very visualization of both traditional archival information as well as the digital itself to be rethought.

Anne Collins Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is now CAA Past President. She served as president of CAA from 2012 to 2014. Paul B. Jaskot is currently Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (CASVA), Washington, DC (2014–16). He served as CAA’s president from 2008 to 2010.

[1] We thank Anne Helmreich for sharing her thoughts on the resources developing in this arena.

Filed under: Digital Issues, Humanities

Dear Colleague,

We are writing to ask for your insights regarding practices in new media by taking the following survey: should take approximately 20 minutes for you to complete.

The information gathered from this survey will be used to assist the CAA Professional Practices Committee Taskforce on updating and improving the existing CAA Guidelines for Faculty Teaching in New Media, which can be found at This document is a description of circumstances, standards, and practices within the field. Its purpose is to assist with faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, workload, compensation, funding, and support in new media, and to provide information about faculty working in this area that could be used in making accurate and comprehensive evaluations.

Our aim is to revise these guidelines into order to the better reflect current practices, and to ensure that it is a useful document for all stakeholders. In February 2015 we will be making initial recommendations for revision, based on this survey and interviews with those in the field. Our goal is to have the updated document(s) approved by the CAA Board by May 2016.

If you are interested in being interviewed by our committee members, please contact us at In addition, we ask that you forward this email to your colleagues, whose input is valuable. In addition to New Media Faculty, we would especially like to involve colleagues with administrative duties overseeing practitioners who work with new media as well as part-time and contingent faculty in this survey.

The survey will end on November 15, 2014.

We thank you for your time, and look forward to your input.


CAA Professional Practices Committee Taskforce on New Media Guidelines:

Paul Catanese, Columbia College Chicago
Rachel Clarke, California State University, Sacramento
Chris Coleman, University of Denver
Michael Grillo, The University of Maine
Heidi May, Columbus State University
Ellen Mueller, West Virginia Wesleyan College
Joanna Spitzner, Syracuse University
Amy Youngs, The Ohio State University

Filed under: Committees, Digital Issues, Surveys

Mapping Titian: A New Digital Resource in Art History

posted by Christopher Howard

Mapping Titian is a new digital resource that allows users to visualize one of the most fundamental concerns of the discipline of art history: the relationship between an artwork and its changing historical context. Focusing on the paintings executed by the Venetian Renaissance artist Titian (ca. 1488–1576), this site offers a searchable provenance index of his attributed pictures and allows users to create customizable collections of paintings and customizable maps that show the movement of the pictures over time and space. Mapping Titian has been generously funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation through a digital art-history grant to Boston University.

Mapping Titian contains the most up-to-date information available from print publications and from museum websites for the provenance of the paintings. The sources for each work’s provenance are cited each time the picture changes ownership and/or location. A references page includes a complete bibliographic entry for these sources. Users are encouraged to share new information or to offer corrections to the current database. As of now, the site has only paintings attributed to Titian and, because of attribution questions, does not yet include drawings by the artist. Information is still being entered and refined, and the site should be fully developed by September 2014.

Titian’s paintings have proven to be an especially rich microcosm of possible directions for the future project, Mapping Artworks, of which this current site would be one part. The application would provide a template for other scholars and educators to map other groups of objects, whether by artist, medium, or another criterion. Future phases of this project will include additional ways beyond geographic maps to visualize these “lives,” including nongeographic networks and three-dimensional virtual reconstructions of important collecting spaces in history.

CAA members who are interested in joining the advisory board for Mapping Titian and/or have any questions can contact Jodi Cranston, professor of Renaissance art at Boston University.

Image Caption

Titian, Madonna of the Pesaro Family, 1519–26, oil on canvas, 16 x 9 ft. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice (artwork in the public domain)


Filed under: Art History, Digital Issues, Research

The following announcement was originally published by Ithaka S+R on April 30, 2014.

Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians

A study funded by the Getty Foundation and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, called Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians, looks at how art historians’ research practices are evolving in the digital age. Intended primarily for the museums, libraries, academic departments, and visual-resources centers that support research in art history within the United States, this project focused on five key areas:

1. The emergence of “digital art history,” and how it is diverging from the broader understanding of the digital humanities.

2. The interconnected scholarly communities that support art history, including museums, libraries, and visual-resources centers, both within and beyond an art historian’s home institution.

3. The changes that digitization and online search portals have brought to the process of searching for primary sources and the limitations of the current discovery environment.

4. The practices art historians employ for managing their large personal collections of digital images.

5. The state of graduate students’ professional training.

Within these five areas, the report makes clear that the needs of art historians can be successfully met only through the collaborative work of many support organizations. Our findings suggest several opportunities for these organizations to develop new funding, services, tools, and initiatives that will have far-reaching impact on the discipline.

This is the third project to be completed as part of Ithaka S+R’s Research Support Services Program. A report for the project in history was released in December 2012, and a report for the project in chemistry was released in February 2013.

Digital Media Art Preservation Project Questionnaire

posted by Christopher Howard

CAA invites members to participate in a digital media art preservation project currently underway at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. This project aims to develop scalable preservation strategies for complex, interactive, born-digital media artworks using the collections of Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art as a test bed.

In developing a preservation framework that will address the needs of the broadest range of archive users, Cornell seeks the input of artists, researchers, educators, curators, and others who work with interactive digital artworks and artifacts. Would you please take a few minutes to respond to this questionnaire about your practices? Depending on your responses, the survey should take approximately ten to twenty-five minutes to complete.

Information about questionnaire results will be published and made available to the broader media archives community. Read more about this preservation initiative here or contact Madeleine Casad, associate curator and Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art Curator for Digital Scholarship for the Cornell University Library, for more information.

Filed under: Digital Issues, Surveys

THATCamp CAA 2014

posted by Emmanuel Lemakis

Registration is now open for THATCamp CAA, a free “unconference” on digital art history that is taking place during the week of the 2014 Annual Conference in Chicago. THATCamp CAA is open to scholars, artists, and graduate students with an active interest in digital art history, defined as scholarship and education in art history, architectural history, and archaeology that is supported by digital technology. The 2014 event will build on the great work done at CAA’s THATCamp in New York in 2013. Full details of the upcoming event, including information on how to register online, can be found in the About section of THATCamp’s website.

THATCamp CAA will be held at Columbia College Chicago on the days immediately preceding the main conference: Monday, February 10 (11:45 AM–5:15 PM); and Tuesday, February 11 (9:30 AM–5:00 PM). A follow-up session intended to reflect on the discussion is scheduled for Thursday, February 13 (9:30 AM–NOON) in the Marquette Room of the Hilton Chicago. Participants should be able to attend all sessions.

Registration is now open! The organizers also ask that you begin proposing session ideas. Approximately sixty participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited. Only those who can commit to attending all days should register.

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