An Introduction to the Illinois Women Artists Project

The Illinois Women Artists Project (IWA) is an online database containing biographical information on over 450 female artists producing work during from 1840-1940 in Illinois. The project is an ongoing collaborative effort bringing together the work of independent researchers, students and academics.   The database is used by students participating in Gender in Art classes and, and also serves as the focal point for a biennial symposium, “Midwestern Women Artists.”

Although the number of entries in the IWA database is expanding, the way in which the information is being used and presented remains unchanged.   This project seeks to find ways of representing the biographical data in a more visually engaging and informative manner. Currently the site exists as a “Wikipedia” of Illinois Women Artists, accessed via a couple of indices. In this format the information remains stagnant.   How can digital mapping transform the way users see and understand the contents of this database? How can the contents be made more accessible, more engaging, and more useful?

These questions will be considered over the next two weeks: follow the blog (or contribute to the comments) to see what solutions emerge and what problems surface.

Sarah Glover, Associate Professor of Art History, Bradley University


Source: An Introduction to the Illinois Women Artists Project

Possible Digital Repositories

Today’s homework assignment includes a blog post (this one!) that asks us to consider possible places where we can find good images for our DH projects. For my Italo-Byzantine panel painting project (which keeps narrowing as I learn about how much you must do), I will have to rely on a 1948 publication by Edward B. Garrison. When I ordered that book from Inter-library loan it was spindly book with slick pages that stuck together and a binding that was coming apart. It made me sad. What made me sadder was all the images that were reproduced were in BLACK AND WHITE.

So, I need to find many of them, and some are in private collections (the bane of the art historian, at least this one) and others are in museums that do not have anything digitized. So…..

I am not sure where I am going to find my images. I have found some from the Met. Some from the National Gallery in DC. There are others in some museums in Germany, Italy (though many of those may not have searchable databases). I will be limiting my compendium of images to Italo-Byzantine panel paintings of the Virgin and Child (starting with those that are bust-length) that were painted in Tuscany in the 13th century.

Tomorrow we’ll see about different web applications for the storage of images. I love Zotero that we learned about today, but am thinking it might not be the best place so actually stage the mapping project. But it will help keep track of images, their metadata as well as sources (I found out that you can load PDF articles there that keep the bibliographic info that you can then **export** into perfectly Chicago-style format. HUZZAH!!!)

I am eager for tomorrow (but before then, I have to read a book; only 74 pages, but still. It has a spine; it’s a book).

Source: Possible Digital Repositories

Digital Repositories for Renaissance Ceramics

A number of museum websites offer downloadable high-quality images for academic purposes in conjunction with thorough metadata. Sites with particular strengths in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century ceramics are:

British Museum:

Victoria & Albert Museum:

Metropolitan Museum:

Getty Museum:

The challenge for the researcher is that each database is different, thus making it difficult to archive images in a seamless way.

The Museo Correr in Venice also has an important collection. Much of it is now available online with color images and an improved search system (in Italian):

Source: Digital Repositories for Renaissance Ceramics

Review criteria for evaluating a site

Some criteria for art history web sites: user-friendly, relevant content, visually compelling/appealing (or at least not visually repellent; after all, aesthetics is one concern of art history), ability to adapt as needed, i.e. add content, alter format, etc.

Along with two other colleagues, I evaluated Posts on Art History Teaching Resources:

It was very easy to use. The introduction was succinct. The organization and side-bar were clear. However, much of the (desired) content is not yet available. Could the color of the text make this more apparent?
Relevant Content

This was not easy to evaluate because the content is not very complete. However, if one is just beginning to teach, it is worth searching to see if some lectures, PowerPoints, assignments, and other features will be useful. (This seems geared to Stokstad and Cothren’s Art History.) Some content is very selective, and you may wish to concentrate on material that is not covered here. You may be able to tweak some assignments that are not at the right level for your class.
Visually Compelling/Appealing
Colors, composition, fonts, etc. are very basic. You will not get lost on this site, but you won’t be enchanted, either. Considering the site’s purpose perhaps this does not matter.
Ability to Adapt
The site grows because a variety of art historians contribute to it. There is no consistency right now because not all chapters/periods of art contain instructor readings, lecture notes, slides, assignments, etc. Perhaps one day there will be a range of sources for each chapter.
Several contributions raised questions for me: one assignment for ancient art seems to be “borrowed” from a Pearson “how to” art history paperback book without attribution; one document about writing had serious punctuation errors! Obviously, anyone using features from this site needs to read and adapt them before using.

Source: Review criteria for evaluating a site

Identifying Resources

My proposed project is introspective in that it begins with the materials in my institution’s collection. However, I enjoy thinking of this project reaching the point where it could be expanded to include corresponding information from other institutions that were collecting related works, collecting from the same dealers/galleries/artists, and that have records of installation for 1920s-1940s.

As for outside resources that could provide some context or additional information, these are ones I would use:

MOMA Archives: There is a lot of relevant information in the institutional archives here. The Exhibition Files Checklist is a growing resource and the upcoming information going back to 1929 would make for a good comparison to my museum’s exhibition history. (Though I am interested in permanent collection installation rather than special exhibitions.) MOMA also contributed installation photographs to Artstor, some of which date back to 1929.

Archives of American Art: A portion of our founder’s correspondence is in the collection of AAA, so naturally that would be useful to consult, either originals or the microfilm collection we have in-house. Also, AAA has digitized a large number of their collections which include not only artists, but also galleries, many of whom did business with our founder. There is a lot to draw from there.

Frick’s Archives Directory for the History of Collecting: This resource provides an index of archives of art collectors, dealers, and gallerists in America found in collections around the country. For example, the record for Katherine Dreier lists 21 collections in 10 repositories that include material related to her as a collector.


Source: Identifying Resources

Preparing my project

My project involves producing digital modules for my classes, so Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy, though very interesting, doesn’t really help me strategize for my project. Instead, I will be thinking about the threshold learning elements for art history and integrating that into the points outlined by Grant Wiggins in his post on projects vs. tests. (Note: I couldn’t find a permalink on Wiggins blog.)

Source: Preparing my project

Day 2 (LKE): Scraping, Sorting, and Scrutinizing Sources

After I wrote the book-length entry yesterday, I didn’t have much time to reflect on digital art history. What is it? Are their digital art histories? Is it a method, a community? Tools? As became clear yesterday, there is no one definition–at least not yet. Some of yesterday’s most fruitful conversation centered around the thresholds concepts of art history. These are the core concepts that each person must “master” (pass the threshold) to enter into the shared community of experts in our field. In small groups, we were asked to discuss the following question: What are the threshold concepts for art history that separate us from other disciplines? This involved some time travel because we had to imagine our experiences in our introductory art history courses. Each group brainstormed and listed some excellent ideas.


Today, Day 2 we’ve discussed a variety of topics. Our twitter group is the best place to follow (#doingdah14) because we are processing a lot of information. Some highlights from today include the potential for digital art history to be subversive or to provide new, alternative narratives from those in power.

We’ve also learned some fascinating information about how to harness the power of Google when searching for images, knowing about who links to our own websites, and so on and so forth. Given my obsessive (and bizarre) interest in finding public domain images, I learned some new ways in which to narrow my searches.

We also discussed Zotero, which most people had never used. As a convert of Zotero, I can say that I prefer it to Endnote and love that it is open source. However, I do find it clunky with images. I still prefer my own method: folders (e.g., “Aztec Stone Sculpture”).

Today’s homework is to “identify relevant digital repositories and consider ways to create an intentional archive of sources for our next day. Blog about it.” So here goes. I could spend days finding different repositories because of my project’s broad time span. I decided to limit myself to the sixteenth century. I began my search by looking to repositories that I’ve used in the past, like the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico City. I decided to make a Zotero folder for all the digital repositories so that I could quickly and easily list my findings as well as continue adding to the folder.

Here are some of the ones I think will benefit my project most:

Archives and Libraries with Primary Texts

Archivo General de la Nacion, D.F. (Scans of archival documents)
John Carter Brown Library (digital copies of printed period texts–this is incredibly useful)
Franciscana Library, Cholula, Mexico (digital copies of 114 printed period texts)
Google Books (perhaps this doesn’t count? However, I’m including it here. If I search for different subjects like “sangre de cristo” or “muerte” and limit the dates to 1521-1600, I can find so many digital copies of printed period texts. Then I can make the PDFs readable. My life–my marriage!–is indebted to Google Books)
CDC–a source for information, like this article

Image Repositories

Florentine Codex on the World Digital Library (the entire 12 volumes!)
PESSCA (for possible print sources)
Sadly, there aren’t really that many beyond searching on Artstor.


What is clear to me after searching for suitable and useful repositories is that there are some for textual materials, but few for images. I think I will have to gather the images from a wide array of sources (my own photos, books, museum websites, artstor, others). While this task is daunting, it also encourages me to make a digital project where many of these images can be found in one location.

Source: Day 2 (LKE): Scraping, Sorting, and Scrutinizing Sources

Homework Day_2: Project Planning

Sustainability and standards: two important concepts that came out of our discussions today (which traversed ground from the social and political ideologies of DH, to Zotero, to Google-Fu, to metadata and back again). While the range of topics had relevance to Mapping Paris, the important take-aways from today focused on conceptions of metadata and the foundational (relational) database that the whole project will be based upon. While I began to think about the theoretical implications of database design (writing about it for my presentation at the Arts, Histories and Complex Networks/Leonardo Satellite Symposium and thinking about it through Crone and Halsey’s “On Collecting, Cataloguing and Collating the Evidence of Reading: The ‘Red Movement’ and Its Implications on Digital Scholarship.” [1]), it is only at Rebuilding the Portfolio that I have begun to seriously think about such concepts in their practical application and implementation in Mapping Paris.

We were introduced to the importance of schema for metadata, in other words, ‘a standardized set of fields used to describe an object, field or identity.’ [2] Examples include the Dublin Core, MARC standards, VRA core and CDWA. In addition, Sharon kindly responded to a question that I had about sustainability DH tools and platforms, and in doing so, circled back around to the importance of establishing your descriptive information, from the get-go, in a series of fields that can easily shared, scraped or migrated from platform-to-platform. Such ideas are of the utmost importance in this process of thinking about/designing/implementing the database for Mapping Paris to ensure that the data is publicly usable and accessible (as well as the website – but that is a story for another blog post), that the project is conceived in a spirit of open access and that the data is not irretrievable, but rather accessible and migratable (is that a word?) in the future permutations of D(A)H.


[1] Crone, Rosalind, and Katie Halsey. “On Collecting, Cataloguing and Collating the Evidence of Reading: The ‘Red Movement’ and Its Implications on Digital Scholarship.” In History in the Digital Age, edited by Toni Weller, 95-110. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. (Note that this was pulled from Endnote, as I have not yet made the formal jump to Zotero, nor do I currently know how to properly footnote in a blog.)

[2] Loosely quoted from Sharon Leon’s talking points today (8 July 2014) @ Rebuilding the Portfolio.

Source: Homework Day_2: Project Planning

Ivory Tower or Gatehouse?


One of the primary themes of our second day in so-called “digital art history boot camp” were the promises and problems brought on by the characteristic information overload of the digital age. We read an essay by Roy Rosenzweig that discussed the challenges of archiving digital information—an essay that, as Sharon Leon pointed out, raised questions that have still not been adequately resolved more than a decade later. We examined the treatment of metadata on diverse websites, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to eBay. And we learned some of the ins and outs of Zotero, which, while meant to help organize large bodies of information, is filled with such a plethora of features that it is (ironically) difficult to get an easy handle on.

While much of what we focused on during the day was technical, the ensuing discussions pointed to one of the reasons why (some? many?) scholars in the humanities are resistant to embracing digital approaches. Again and again, we returned to the point that the widespread availability of information in the digital age has given ordinary users access that was difficult if not impossible to gain in the past. (One of the assigned readings, by Tim Sherratt, was a rousing celebration of the effects—social, political—this sort of access can bring.) Since academics have long styled themselves as the guardians of specialized knowledge, it’s not difficult to envision the conflict that inevitably arises when their authority is eroded. But, rather than decrying this particular set of circumstances (which, frankly, isn’t just going to go away), one wonders whether scholars in the humanities could learn to see it, instead, as a salutary development. This dovetails with some of my thoughts lately about the relationship between academic art history and the museum, one that can be labeled, in shorthand, as that between the ivory tower and the gatehouse. In an era in which support for (and, regrettably, interest in) the humanities is in much-discussed decline, academics would do well to consider shifting their roles from tower guards to something more like gatekeepers: that is to say, not enforcing security but rather attentively watching and shaping how audiences of all sorts are given access to information, knowledge and cultural resources.

Source: Ivory Tower or Gatehouse?

Digital sources on Brazilian Modernism

I will need four main types of digital sources for my project:

1. Images of Brazilian modernist artworks by artists such as Tarsila do Amaral, Oswaldo Goeldi, Anita Malfatti, Lasar Segall, Di Cavalcanti, etc.). I’m looking for paintings, prints, book covers, book illustrations, and magazine or journal illustrations, so repositories might include museums, cultural institutes, and digitized books.

Repositories: Established museums and cultural centers such as the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo and the Instituto Moreira Salles have images and metadata, but the images are not always high-res, and the sites are a bit clunky (not easily searchable).

2. Literary works by Brazilian modernist writers such as Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Menotti del Picchia, Antonio de Alcantara Machado, and Patricia Galvao. These works include books (novels, short stories, poems) and also literary journals and newspaper pieces.

It doesn’t seem like much of this has been digitized at all. I’ve read most of this work in print in the 1990s. A search for Google Books shows the titles, but most have not been digitized; some have very limited partial previews; and the ones with more generous previous (though not full) are scans from print editions and not e-Books. I think this will probably be one of the challenges of this project. I’m dreaming of writing a big grant proposal that would include funding for many things, including the digitization of these works.

3. Historical maps of the city of Sao Paulo from the early 1900s to 1940.

The official website of the Sao Paulo city government (prefeitura) contains historical maps and photographs, neatly organized by year, and associated with the census (so there’s also demographic data). Maps are high res! Very zoomable! And can be easily downloaded (the images saved right to Zotero as jpgs in one step).

4. Historical photographs of Sao Paulo from the early 1900s to 1940.

In addition to the site mentioned above, the Departamento de Patrimonio Historico de Sao Paulo has an online database (easily searchable) with lots of historical photos.

On a side note, this department and this particular collection (which began as an analog collection in the 1930s) only exist because of the work of one of the modernist writers included in this study, Mario de Andrade, who founded and directed the city’s Department of Culture. In addition to being a writer and a government worker, he was a folklorist who traveled Brazil and documented many cultural practices (from music to oral narratives). So he was both an early archivist, and an early public intellectual committed to democratizing culture in many ways. After our discussions on public engagement today, I will surely add this as another component to my project and argument.

Summing up: As I suspected, there are few resources already available in digital form for this project (at least findable online). I will have to do more investigating to see if there are digitized resources in Brazil that are offline. I suspect that a huge part of this project will involve searching for funding for the digitization and cataloging of these materials, which in turn will entail finding contributors in Brazil (and maybe in the US too). I know it’s a lot to take on. The upside is that, out of this effort, not only my project would be possible, but also these materials could be made publicly available for the first time in a high-quality, easily searchable format (maybe a database that would be a parallel or sister website).


Source: Digital sources on Brazilian Modernism