July 7: Notes

On the first day of Doing Digital Art History the participants began to conceptualize the Digital Humanities and how Art History plays a role in the field. Participants were asked to define the Digital Humanities using two sentences. Following this activity they listed the pros and cons of Art Historians pursuing work in the Digital Humanities. Shortly after a review of major Digital Art History projects the participants discussed what threshold concepts make one an Art Historian and how these concepts might shape the field of Digital Art History. A collection of images and notes is listed below for public reference.

Discussion 1: Define Digital Humanities in less than two sentences.

  •  Using digital tools to open up and explore scholarship in ways not possible in analog environments.
  • DH is a set of methods that pairs digital media with quantities of data to master and interpret very broad systems (e.g. spatial, temporal, social) and ways of presenting them.

Follow-up Question: What are the pros and cons of Art Historians pursuing a project in the digital humanities?


  • Extending scholastic information out to the public
  • Incorporating the image into a text-driven field
  • Capitalizing on the visual turn
  • Interrogating the digital before it disappears
  • Embracing open-ended work


  • Rights dilemma ($)
  • Authentic item vs. replia
  • Boring
  • Group work vs. individual research
  • Institutional structures (funding capabilities and obtaining tenure)
  • Consumers vs. Producers
  • Sustainability of open-ended work
  • Combining forms
  • Constant learning curve of tools.

Discussion 2: What threshold concepts make one an Art Historian?

  • Images, objects and visual phenomena (as well as the linguistic and intellectual discourses that surround them) are not transparent bearers of meaning, but need to be read and interpreted using diverse methodological perspectives.
  • The notion of what constitutes an art object is itself open to question.
  • The notion of context (as distinguished from the field’s putative objects of study) is itself constructed and highly questionable.
  • Art objects represent active negotiations produced by individuals and groups within specific and delimited cultural and historical condition.

Follow-up: How might these threshold concepts shape how Art Historians use digital tools?


  • Because of the field’s emphasis on the image, techniques like 3-d modeling and mapping may have more relevance.  Digital techniques can help augment modes of visualization and material reconstruction through virtual means.
  • Digital techniques can help change the scale of the phenomena we’re able to visualize and reconstruct.
  • Digital techniques can help the public visualize (art) historical phenomena that might otherwise be difficult to grasp.
  • However, for those who are not archaeologists or architectural historians, there are questions as to whether digital tools—as they now exist—are applicable to certain major aspects of the field, including image analysis.