A number of new online resources for both still and moving images have appeared in the last few months, presenting a common characteristic: the ambition to make available within a single interactive environment vast collections that aggregate or build on previous digitisation projects.
Still image collections
Many large public collections have been digitised and made available online, in part or completely, over the previous decade. The British Museum, National Gallery, Tate, V&A, British Library, Wellcome; Metropolitan Museum, Smithsonian, MOMA, Library of Congress, and NYPL are among the best examples of such online art collections, and all are freely available.
Commercial and educational databases are another source of art images for the academic community, generally as subscription services. This is the case of Bridgeman (Bridgeman Education contains more than 300,000 fine art images) and ARTstor (>1,000,000 images), although some other smaller aggregate collections are accessible free of charge (in cases restricted to academic users): VADS (>100,000 images), Art & Architecture (Courtauld Institute of Art) (>40,000), RIBApix (>57,000), WorldImages (California State University) (>80,000).
Bridgeman Art Library
Art & Architecture (Courtauld Institute of Art)
WorldImages (California State University)
Three new major art image resources have appeared this year, Google Art Project, launched in February (discussed in a previous issue), Artfinder (in beta development since March) and Your Paintings (also in development, launched at the end of June). These three projects are very different in scope and methodology, but have in common the large scale aggregation of collections, the focus on mass market appeal, and the use of innovative and interactive technologies (integration of social media, high resolution, etc.) All are also successful at moving past the many problems that image search engines represent, particularly in an academic environment (unreliable information/metadata, unclear copyright status, variable image quality, limited and partial coverage, etc)
Your Paintings is a new joint BBC / Public Catalogue Foundation web resource currently including images (of good quality, but not in high resolution) and information on some 63,000 paintings (set to increase by 2012 to all 200,000) in UK public collections, including national museums, the Arts Council and Government Art Collections, but also local authority and university collections. It makes accessible to the general public the work carried out by the PCF since 2004, when it started publishing the Oil Paintings in Public Ownership series (33 catalogues in print to date).
Public Catalogue Foundation
Artfinder aims to become the most comprehensive online art database, and although is still in development, it already offers more than 500,000 digitised artworks. Image quality is variable depending on sources, but generally adequate or good, although not high resolution, certainly not the revolutionary high resolution of the images (ca. 1,100) in Google Art Project. It is very interactive, incorporating social media (Twitter, Facebook), and offering features like ‘Art near me’ to locate collections or ‘Magic tour’ to discover new works according to the characteristics of those that you have selected. Based in London, they have also started to produce a number of exhibition guide apps, which include image recognition and high resolution images, for instance for the Twombly & Poussin: Arcadian Painters exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (£1.99 from iTunes) or the Chelsea College of Art & Design BA Fine Art degree show (free).
Twombly & Poussin: Arcadian Painters app
Chelsea College of Art & Design BA Fine Art degree show app
A large number of mobile device apps for museum collections and exhibitions (MOMA, Tate, V&A, MUMOK, Pompidou, Art Basel, etc.) are now available, with more being produced all the time, some for free. You can look for art apps in device/manufacturer specific online shops (iTunes Store, Android Market) or with the new Yahoo apps search engine.
In addition to commercial stock photography providers (Getty, Corbis, etc. -see BAPLA’s website for more information), Flickr/Creative Commons and stock.xchng are alternative sources of images under a range of licences alternative to full copyright. For other databases and collections, there are numerous listings available, including Digital Image Collections (University of Delaware Library), Image Collections and Online art (University of Michigan School of Art & Design) and Art London Image’s Bookmarks (University of the Arts London Information Services).
Digital Image Collections
Image Collections and Online art
Art London Image’s Bookmarks
Moving image collections
Your Film Archives is anew database (launched in early July, currently in testing) comprising catalogue records, links to digitised films when available, and other information about the holdings of the main film archives in the UK (including the BFI National Archive and several regional archives). This is the first time that such database is available, and will constitute a much needed complement to the information available from the BFI Film & TV Database and BFI Screenonline. With the signing of a Memorandum of understanding between BFI and British Library last April we look forward to further collaborative projects to make more accesible on- and offline public film and television collections.
Your Film Archives
BFI Film & TV Database
By the time this issue is published the BUFVC National VHS Register, another new database, in this case aimed at cataloguing off-air recordings made on VHS by UK colleges and university, will move into its pilot phase (1st September). The Register should be particularly useful to inform future digitisation projects (at national –e.g. BoB National– or local level) and collection development, disposal and conservation activities.
BUFVC National VHS Register
BUFVC BoB National
Although much of the material in online moving image ‘sharing’ websites is highly problematic (along similar lines to those mentioned earlier in relation to image search engines), these resources are still worth exploring from an educational use perspective, as many YouTube and Vimeo channels offer high quality content from legitímate sources, searchable from a single site. Art institutions like the ICA, MACMontreal, Art Institute of Chicago, V&A, Tate or the BFI make available very significant collections of moving image material on their respective YouTube channels
More information on finding and using online still and moving images in the context of higher education, including technical and legal issues, is available at the excellent JISC Digital Media advice pages.
[Grandal Montero, G. (2011) Resources online: Still and moving image. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 213, Sept.-Oct., pp. 3-4.]