Art History

Michael Greenhalgh


The discipline itself in this context should be understood to include not only lecturers and students who impart and acquire knowledge, and curators who look after resources such as slides, but also the staff of museums and galleries, with the oversight and care of large quantities of works, usually many more than can be displayed. And we should remember that other historians need and use images from the past,1 a fact reflected in the broad church of participants included in conferences.2 In large collections especially, computers were early recognized as an essential tool in regimenting what was often incomplete paper documentation for the use of curators, conservators, registrars, and, eventually, the general public.

Art historians use computers to order, sort, interrogate, and analyze data about artworks, preferably with images; increasingly they wish to use the Web as the carrier for multimedia research or teaching/learning projects. The fact that primary data for art historians are visual – images, still and perhaps moving – did not prevent an early interest in the ordering and interrogation of text data arranged into databases (following the development of automation in libraries) or studying how to deal with the quantitative data churned out by a counting machine (Floud 1979).

This chapter charts such developing use, from the development of text databases through the introduction of digital imaging and then to the use of the Web in teaching and learning. It does not consider the use of computers in art,3 nor yet text bibliographies of art historical material, such as the Bibliographic d'Histoire de I'Art, which are library-based activities. It illustrates how disciplinary innovation in this area is inevitably dependent upon and triggered by technical innovation, and how the introduction and popularization of the Web with its consistent interface has brought new possibilities for computer use in learning. Each section introduces and explains the various problems, and then charts with relevant links how various people and organizations tried to solve them. Far from hymning today's computing world as a nirvana, the theme throughout is of difficulties with expertise, communication, and finance – that is, with people rather than technology. These are problems that intensify as the technologies and the potential applications become more sophisticated (cf. the Virtual Museum of Computing: see http://vmoc.museophile.org/).

Text Databases

Early computers were unsuitable for humanities use: large, slow, expensive, and with software designed by and therefore for scientists, they were jealously guarded. Using one to write a book (with the attraction of supposed "automated indexing") was seen as near-blasphemy and, in any case, was difficult given the restricted software and the way such machines dealt with text. The construction of databases was no easier, because interface programs, which softened and simplified data entry and retrieval, were rare. And the discipline had two problems, which did not confront run-of-the-mill author-title-date databases: the part-whole problem (i.e., how to catalogue a multipart altarpiece, let alone a Gothic portal or a complete cathedral), and the element of imprecision, which is often part of historical data.

What is more, the interchangeability and communication we take for granted (and demand) today did not exist: operating system did not necessarily talk unto operating system; input was usually via a text terminal if not via punchcards or paper tape (certainly not a VDU); interfaces hovered between the obscure and the feral; output was to line printer or daisy-wheel or, with some difficulty, to phototypesetter; and inter-computer communication was tricky because of the myriad of physical and logical formats in use. Nevertheless, some institutions (such as the Detroit Institute of Arts: cf. today's Visual Resources Art Image Database) used computers to develop catalogues of their collection, perforce using specially commissioned software, or adapting mainframe programs (such as IBM's STAIRS) to their needs. By the early 1980s, art historians began to develop database projects that grappled with the problem of describing images (see Corti 1984). As in other areas (such as theater history: cf. The London Stage, see Donahue, website) the road was often rocky and long, with memory and storage restrictions of early systems demanding laconic descriptors (Villard 1984); and funding for staff, machinery, and programming difficult to find. The Universit` degli Studi in Siena was early in the field, with a how-to-do-it manual (Bisogni and Corti 1980) followed by one on methodology describing projects (Bisogni 1980), two giving exemplary applications (di Bari et al. 1981) and yet another tackling the problem of dealing with images (Bisogni 1981).

The first problem in establishing art historical databases was terminology. Even well after the penetration of the microcomputer, the gap between the attitudes of visual resources (VR) curators and academics was clear: few of the latter would take an interest in computerization until machine and network could demonstrably help with teaching or research; and all who had done battle with different slide rooms were quite used to a flexible (read: vague) use of terminology. In any case, most departments had "legacy" collections of slides, and few intended to relabel them all to fit some grand scheme. The VR curators were more precise, reasoning that chaos would result unless the same terminology was employed. Several conferences concentrated on this important matter (see Roberts 1990). Standards are fine, but is it the researchers who want them or the librarians? When somebody at such a conference opined that For every simple problem, there is a complicated solution, perhaps she was thinking of the Art History Information Program4 at the Getty, and its Art and Architecture Thesaurus: begun pre-computers, it offers an excellent set of standards, but these are expensive to implement and far from universally applicable5. The fears and expectations of museum professionals are well reflected in the journals of the period6.

In any case, how to catalogue an artwork? One possibility was by meaning; and a fruitful project which began without any connection with a computer is ICONCLASS, the origins of which go back to 1954, and which provides an iconographical classification system, and now a CD-ROM, and web browser software.

In these days before effective and cheap graphics, the discipline's associations and journals naturally concentrated on database matters. Thus, Computers and the History of Art publishes since 1991 a journal (CHArt, a development of a Newsletter begun in 1985), holds annual conferences, usually themed, and now publishes them on the Web. The Visual Resources Association, initially curators meeting annually since 1968 at College Art Association conferences, was founded formally in 1982: it now has some 600 members and a quarterly Bulletin, and correctly titles itself "The international organization of image media professionals" with members working in "educational and cultural heritage environments." The range of the membership indicates just how broadly "Art History" images are used and the problems and possibilities they entail are recognized: they include information specialists; digital image specialists; art, architecture, film, and video librarians; museum curators; slide, photograph, microfilm, and digital archivists; architectural firms; galleries; publishers; image system vendors; rights and reproductions officials; photographers; art historians; artists; and scientists.

The Lure of "Intelligent" Software

But surely computers are "thinking" machines, or so it was too often assumed. Much was made in the 1980s of computers as "intelligent", and able to learn and therefore respond just like a teacher. It should be difficult today to conceive of the computer as any more than a speedy idiot obeying a set of precise instructions; but many in the humanities do indeed continue to regard it as a black and magical (or black-magical) box – throw the data at it, and somehow the computer will make sense of them.

Such a continuing substitute for idol-worship has had many adverse consequences, which continue to this day. The first was in the early 1980s, when the heralded "Fifth Generation", to be developed by the Japanese (the very mention of MITI struck apprehension into the Western heart), was to produce new levels of software. Second, this was the age, not coincidentally, when Artificial Intelligence programs – AI – would supposedly take over medical diagnosis, mineral exploration, and, of course, education. Intelligent systems were also proposed for art historians, because computer databases were seen as able to provide intelligent answers to researchers' questions, such as Cerri's expert system for archaeologists and art historians. Characteristically, Cerri was from the Computer Department at the Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) at Pisa. The SNS provided conferences, examples, and publications to drive along the application of computer processing to art history7.


The breakthrough for art historians and other humanists came not with the introduction of microcomputers in the later 1970s (usually tricky to program and to use, with strange storage possibilities and nil communication, and intended for aficionados) but with the IBM PC in 1981 and then the Macintosh. I borrowed one from a computer laboratory at a large American University in late 1981: perhaps not recognizing the cuckoo in their superior mainframe nest, they hadn't played with it and didn't want to do so (just as many IBM engineers considered it a toy). As is well known, that machine with its open (i.e., easily and freely imitable) architecture led to an explosion of cheap machines with increasingly user-friendly and sometimes useful software, a cheap storage medium (the floppy disk) and, eventually, a hard disk and then CD-ROM. In 1984 arrived the Apple Macintosh, the first PC with a graphical user interface. The cheapness and apparent utility of micros set many people pondering how they might organize, access, and disseminate the mountains of text and graphics data used in art historical research and teaching (see Heusser 1987).

Pictures on a computer were now theoretically possible for every art historian, even if only in greyscale. Given the puny power of such machines, however, they were not yet feasible – but that would change in the following decade. If the first programs that ensured the popularity of micros were spreadsheets, the second were database packages, for the first time enabling art historians and museum personnel to construct at minimal cost databases of artifacts. Until the late 1980s, these were text-only, and sometimes relational. Only with the more powerful hard-disk machines of the late 1980s did image databases come along, and then the users faced a perennial dilemma: should they purchase a commercial product, paying for the privilege of testing it as version follows version, and lock themselves into a proprietary setup? Or should they go for open roll-your-own software? Luckily, with the development of the freeware/shareware ethos, good open programs could be had for little money; while the development of avowedly non-proprietary operating systems such as Linux not only made people look at the PC with greater fondness, but also encouraged the development of freely distributable software in all application areas.

So was it immediately "goodbye 35 mm slides, hello digital images"? If all successful computers have been digital machines from the start, the last twenty years have highlighted the problem of how to deal with analogue materials in an increasingly digital age. For the art historians, this means principally slides and photographs. The 1960s had seen the move from 6 × 6 lantern slides (usually greyscale) to 35 mm slides (usually color), and most university departments built up large collections which had to be bought, labeled, catalogued, perhaps mounted, and sometimes repaired. With strong light projected through them, slides fade: a prize exhibit in one collection was six slides of the selfsame Monet Haystack, all with different coloration, and none that of the actual painting. Every collection had much the same basic set of slides, curated by expensive personnel: might money not be saved by collecting such images onto a more cheaply reproducible medium?

The late 1980s also saw the introduction of powerful workstations with sufficient memory and screen resolution to manipulate graphics. These were still too expensive for most people, but pioneering projects such as Marilyn Aronberg Lavin's Piero Project and the English VASARI Project were funded, and demonstrated the possibilities of high-power computer graphics (including VRML models [Lavin 1992]: see below) to explore Piero della Francesca's monumental chapel in Arezzo.


1 Princeton Index of Christian Art, founded 1917. By 1990 it had some 800,000 file cards documenting over 25,000 different subjects, plus a cross-referenced photo file with nearly a quarter of a million images. Copies also in the Vatican, UCLA, Utrecht and Dumbarton Oaks. In 1990, with Mellon Foundation and Princeton funding, a computerized database was begun.

2 The Marburger Index Inventory of Art in Germany is another long-lived venture8, which as Foto Marburg goes back to 1913, and collected photographs of art in Germany. Placed on microfiche in the 1980s, the Web version9 currently offers access to some 220,000 images. It offers a variety of iconographic catalogues ordered by ICONCLASS, as well as orderings according to function, form, material, techniques, and so on.

3 The Witt Computer Index at the Courtauld Institute in London: controlled vocabulary, authority files, ICONCLASS for subject matter.

4 The Census of Antique Works of Art Known to the Renaissance: beginning in 1946 in the photographic collection of the Warburg Institute, funding from the Getty Art History Information Program allowed a start to be made on its computerization; from 1981 housed at both the Warburg and the Biblioteca Hertziana, Rome, a demonstra tion videodisk was pressed in 1988. Its home from 1995 has been the Kunstgeschichtlichen Seminar of the Humboldt University in Berlin. Cf. the conference Inaugurating a Scholarly Database: the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance, Warburg Institute, March 19–21, 1992.


One viable technology, which lost the race for watch-at-home films to the VCR, was the laserdisk or videodisk, which could hold about 40,000 still frames, was cheap to copy, and played to an ordinary TV monitor. What is more, it was a random-access device (simply punch in the desired frame number), and the images thereon did not fade. The images could be enregistered professionally, or a recorder (e.g., by Sony) bought and used. Although it could be operated standalone, the laserdisk player was easily linked to a computer, with the latter holding the text data controlling the display of images.

The 1980s therefore saw the production of several very ambitious laserdisk projects. Some of these were by Art History departments who laserdisked their holdings; little information is now available about these copyright-precarious ventures, and the results certainly did not get much circulated, so that economies of scale were unavailable.

However, several museums and galleries also produced laserdisks of some of their holdings. High-quality projects included the Vatican Library videodisks, on sale from 1993: the first three disks offered a total of 75,000 images, and it was estimated that the Latin MSS alone would occupy 400,000 images10. But the relatively high cost of the playing equipment, and their specialized market, meant that few such ventures were a financial (as opposed to a scholarly) success. Where laserdisks were useful was in supplementing the speed and storage deficiencies of computers; thus the first edition of Perseus had the software and text on a CD-ROM, with the images displayed on the linked laserdisk player.

However, although laid down in digital format on the platter, the laserdisk is an analogue technology, and is really video, so that only one dimension of image is possible (NTSC and PAL being slightly different but neither offering more in modern digital parlance than a 300,000-pixel image). By comparing such images with what is possible today (up to about 5,000,000 pixels, or over 16 times that resolution), it is easy to see why the laserdisk has died. But it poses the dilemma: if laserdisks had a ten-year life, and even assuming today's support media will remain readable, will today's digital images soon seem puny, and need redigitizing?

The decade 1984–94 therefore saw much activity as text databases began to be populated with images, at first by scanner or video. This was to be a long and difficult journey because of the huge number of records involved, the cost of digitizing, and worries about image resolution and longevity of the support (tapes, hard disks).

3-D graphics

Interest in graphics was not circumscribed by still images, because it seemed that the new power of computers and speedy networks could deliver much more interesting scenarios in the form of virtual reality. The construction in a computer of a graphical representation of the real world or an imaginary one was seen by some visionaries as offering much more attractive and educationally rich presentations. Why display St Peter's Square or the inside of the Louvre in flat images? Why not build them in the machine, and allow the user to zoom in, out, and around, accessing other resources (text, sound, video) with the click of a mouse? Was this not an effective way of allowing students to experience real environments it was impractical to visit? Package the presentations for the Web, using the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), and use them for teaching – although the flaw in the argument is that technologies developed for gaming do not necessarily meet exacting standards either of detail or of accuracy – of "realism."

VRML models are difficult to prepare and expensive to construct; so that even if one convincing model were to be constructed, this would not help much in art history courses dealing with tens of monuments. Nor are there any signs that more "intelligent" software will rescue what looks increasingly like a dead end (but not before many art historians, architects, and archaeologists had spent time on ambitious plans for a computer-generated version of the world). Of course, a continuing problem in anything to do with computers is hype versus reality; so that while we can all agree that three dimensions should be an improvement on two (cf. human sight), computer reconstructions of the real world (I exclude drawn reconstructions of archaeological sites – cf. titles such as Rediscovering Ancient Sites through New Technology – where such technologies probably do have a future) remain the triumph of hope over experience. Even if for the devotees of virtual reality we are "virtually there" (Lanier 2001), it is sensible to recognize the scale of the problem from data acquisition to processing and display11. Nevertheless, computer graphics, both raster and bitmapped, have a very large part to play in the study of art and architecture (cf. Stenvert 1991)12. We may even hope for the further development of autostereoscopic 3-D displays, which will allow the user to view the displayed scene without using stereo glasses13.

CD-ROM and digital camera

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the generation of digital images for manipulation on standalone computers was done by the end user with a video camera, or by Kodak putting images onto their multi-resolution Photo-CD format. Two technologies that between 1993 and 1998 moved from the high-price, low-volume specialist to the low-price, high-volume consumer category were the CD-ROM burner and the digital camera. CD-ROMs could be professionally pressed in the 1980s, but at high cost; and the first expensive and tricky "end user" burners appeared in 1994. For art history the burner and the camera go together (with their cousin the scanner), because the output of the latter is conveniently stored on the former; as images get larger, so more CD-ROM blanks are needed – hence the recent introduction of its child, the DVD burner, one version of which holds 4.2 GB, rather than the 700 MB of the conventional CD-ROM.

By 1999, prices were reasonable for both items (about a tenfold drop in six years), and light and cheap portable cameras and burners helped scholars on research trips. Only now did the old argument of the art-historical computer-deniers that digital images were inferior to 35 mm slides come to grief. At last it became feasible and cheap to digitize sets of images for class use, although difficulties in the provision of such material to the students remained, as we shall see below.


1 To encourage involvement, the CIHA Conference in 2000 organized a competition for "the best digital productions in Art History."

2 The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft supports an initiative of the Art History Department of the Humboldt University intended to build up an international archive of Virtual Art (see Grau website).

The Internet, Web, and Communication

In the mid-1980s, micros communicated little better than mainframes. For museums and galleries with data, how to interchange them? By tape, certainly; but would the tape from machine A fit machine B and, if so, could the data thereon be read with or without the program with which they were written? Were two sets of data compatible to the extent that they could be merged, and thereby fulfill a main reason for communication? In general, dog-in-the-manger attitudes have kept data discrete; and it is ironic that the development of the Web has meant that anyone's data can be read in a web browser, thereby negating any urgency in actually sharing them. Idealists, who expected that the Internet and then the Web would mean access to artifacts beyond gallery boundaries, after the manner of the librarians' union catalogue,14 have been largely disappointed.

If the PC and graphical user interface held the promise of the easy manipulation of images and concomitant text by art historians, their communication across the Internet (Naughton 1999) in universally readable formats was lacking. The enthusiasm and effort in humanities computing may be measured by the 701 pages of the 1989–90 Humanities Computing Yearbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Software and Other Resources15. Although digitizing images was in hand by 1990 (see Durran 1992–3, for examples), the Web and its protocols and software, a European invention from CERN (Naughton 1999: 230–9), was the breakthrough (in 1993/4), offering a consistent way of viewing data in various formats, and hyperlinking between them. The data could be served from the local machine or, more normally, pulled down from a server Out There somewhere on the Web. Text and still images would write to the browser quickly; sound and video would continue to be problematical on slower networks. For the first time, communication looked easy, in that any connected machine that could run the browser could get the data – no need to bother about incompatible operating systems any more. This cheap, easy, and attractively multimedia protocol saw the designers of earlier teaching and learning packages (most of which began with the penetration of the micro) eager to upgrade their work and reach a larger audience.


Suddenly, with the Web, computing in an education context also looked practicable at a reasonable price. Some departments offered course images on the Web using Mosaic as early as 1994. Although useful websites grew only slowly, and access around the world also (spreading from the G8 outwards), educators could now contemplate the use of these learning materials, with teacher and students being in different locations, and the data being accessed asynchronously, even if they stipulated the survival of the campus-based university.

The minutiae and problems of communication and cooperation bypassed many administrators, in government as well as in education, who since its introduction had seen the microcomputer as a cost-effective way of teaching without teachers. Typical of this period (and our own!) was an increasing demand for education and a reluctance to fund personnel: machines are cheaper, do not get sick or sue, and can be written down for tax purposes. So computers came into education, sometimes as a requirement based on faith rather than need, but more often as cost-cutters, not as education-enhancers or facilitators. The consequences are with us today – usually as much hardware as anyone can use, but an inadequate level of personnel, and no understanding of the need for programmers to write humanities-specific programs. The current hope is to have computers search visual databases by subject, and have the software recognize and retrieve – all images containing a tree and a river. Such content-based retrieval might be realized: it is logical to wish for software be able to "recognize" real-world objects, and it would be interesting to see such a process demonstrated on a wide range of art historical data16.


1 Journals promoted education via computer.17

2 In the museum world, the Museum Computer Network played an important role, with its archives online since March 1999 (eSpectra website).

3 The Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) project was begun in 1984 by the British Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils to help staff use computers in support of teaching. In 1989, 24 specialist centers were established, including a CTI Center for History, Archaeology, and Art History. This offered workshops, and published a Newsletter welcoming "reports on the use of computers for teaching or research … announcements of new courses, reports on running courses, news about projects, software, datasets and conferences, and letters." The mission of the CTI (<http://www.cti.ac.uk>), according to its publicity, was "to maintain and enhance the quality of learning and increase the effectiveness of teaching through the applica tion of appropriate learning technologies." The aim was to "enable change in higher education, because with computers teachers and learners can determine the place, time and pace for learning." Their refereed journal, Active Learning, emphasizes "learning outcomes rather than enabling technologies." In 1991, 314 packages for historians were listed (Spaeth 1991).

Art History and Computing Today

The discipline continues to be a minnow in the humanities pond, and a relatively expensive one (all those slides and photographs, and glossy books), but books which in years past targeted a very broad audience now focus on art historians.18 There are many projects and ventures in the area (cf. CNI and Düsseldorf), and several ventures (to add to the pioneering Marburg Index – see above) which offer an overview of national holdings, such as the Joconde database of works in 75 French museums, which joins a series of other French initiatives (see, for example, the Ministère de la culture website). These are important undertakings: the architecture database called Mérimée, for instance, has over 150,000 records. It also derives from a base prepared in the 1980s: as early as 1985, the Ministère de la culture committed in hardware alone FF18.2 million to archaeology, FF10.8 million for laboratories, and FF10.3 million for the digitization of images and sound (Ministère de la culture 1985). Why are not the governments or cultural organizations of other first-world, computer-rich countries doing likewise?

But as in many other disciplines, moves toward the use of computers and the Web in teaching and learning have been left to the initiative of individual academics; some of these have been told sententiously that academics should leave such technical matters to programmers; others have seen their enterprise met by lack of interest, help, or adequate financing from the administration. On the other hand, institutions in Germany and Switzerland promote computers in research and conferences (see Hamburg University website), and in courses on computing in the discipline (see Universitat Trier website). A collaborative venture – Scbule des Sebens - offers web-based seminars, using Web-CT. And although the connectivity of computers should also mean the enthusiastic cooperation of academics across institutions, and a willingness to share data, in no country has any such organizational initiative been taken nationally, and international initiatives tend to address narrow research issues rather than to aim to facilitate teaching. "No man is an island", wrote John Donne; but then he had no experience of our supposedly connected world, and of the fears throughout the system. If I develop a web-based course, who owns it, the institution or me? If it works, am I still needed? If ArtAl exists as such a course, how many young lecturers will be needed, except to keep it updated?

So although the technologies (including Web software) are clever and advanced, it is the human element that restricts obvious developments in the discipline. These (some of which are valid across other disciplines) include: acknowledgment that computer literacy is essential for all staff and students; rethinking of traditional modes of course delivery (which doesn't mean their complete replacement by the Web); gradual replacement of analogue slide collections by digital ones retrieved from some international database-in-the-sky; insistence that web-based learning should improve the quality of education, rather than lower the unit of resource for the administrators; planning for classrooms which encompass existing web-based technologies, including videoconferencing.

Conclusion: The Future

Although computing for art historians is considerably simpler now than it was ten or twenty years ago, many problems remain, and they still revolve around communication, expertise, and finance.

Ease of communication, and a relative freedom from hackers as from the 90 percent or more of idiocy which overloads the net, requires the development of private or restricted networks which will allow the easy transmission and viewing of visual material of spectacularly high resolution. In many ways it is a pity that the Internet and the Web, both developed in universities or university-like institutions on public money, did not tie all the technologies up with patents (against the ideology, I know), and then recoup funds by making commerce pay hugely for their use. This would certainly have softened the funding crisis in higher education.

A growing desire of art historians to teach using the Web requires either the upgrading of useful but general-purpose course-construction programs such as Blackboard or WebCT, or the development of suitable programs usable by newly computer-savvy staff.

Yet financial problems in a small discipline are certain to remain. If there are more than 1,999 museums online worldwide (MCN website), funding prevents many teaching institutions from presenting their materials on the Web. This will happen gradually, as 35 mm slides degrade and as digital cameras take over from analogue ones. Then the day will soon come when VR curators must be as computer-literate as staff in university libraries (now usually part of something like a Division of Scholarly Information), as the Visual Resources Association (VRA) (see above) has recognized for years. In other words, such personnel must capture the high ground of indispensability just as librarians have so successfully presented themselves as the natural high priests for the curating of digital as well as of paper-based information. So how will such a small discipline keep its head above water if it goes thoroughly digital? We already have a system where numbers count instead of quality (5 students taking Poussin: bad; 200 students taking Desire and the Body. good). In the nineteenth century academics were sometimes paid according to the number of students they attracted (plus ça change …); so can we envisage those academics who develop expensive web-based courses recouping the outlay by some kind of pay-per-use micro-money, since computers are good at such calculations? Since tourism is a crucial element in the economy, and since universities are increasingly commercial organizations, should art historians relocate themselves (as many museums have done) as part of the heritage industry (see <http://www.archimuse.com/consulting/bearman.html>), and produce cultural tourism courses for paying customers as spin-offs from their student-directed university work?

The wind of commerce hit museums harder than many universities. In some instances necessity occasioned the creation of good websites as the public face of the institution (interest logged via hits per week); in others it provoked a rethink of the mission of museums and a dumbing down to a lower common denominator, in displays, special exhibitions, and websites. Museums are in a state of flux because of computers and the Web: can/should technology be applied to these dusty mausolea of out-of-context artifacts to provide a learned, multimedia, immersive context – the nearest thing now possible to reintegrating the works with the context from which they were removed? Or is the museum of the future to be a theme park, lacking any truly educational mission, with Web displays as part of the fun? Believers in culture should hope for the former; but, as the inscription on Wren's tomb nearly has it, Si monumentum requiris, cinumclicke.

Indeed, should we extrapolate from the existence of the Web to the decline of campus-based universities and physical museums and galleries? If galleries can only display a small proportion of their collection at any one time, should not funding go into web-based image databases? And if seminars and tutorials should remain because everyone recognizes the human and pedagogic value of face-to-face sessions, the fixed-term, fixed-place lecture might disappear in the face of the twin pressures of web-based profusely illustrated "lectures", and the increasing inability of students working to pay for their education to attend them. The challenge is to ensure that web-based "lectures" are of a quality equivalent to or higher than traditional ones. We might hope that the digital image, available well-catalogued and in profusion in a discipline for the development of which the photograph was partly responsible, will enhance art history's popularity and underline the worldwide importance of culture in an age where networks reach around the world.


1 Thus the Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes published Le Médiéviste et I'Ordinateur, issues 26/7 of which (Autumn 1992-Spring 1993) were devoted to digitized images, "source essentielle pour l'historien et la plupart du temps difficile à consulter."

2 Cf. Peter Denley and Deian Hopkin's History and Computing (1987): the result of a conference in 1986 to inaugurate an association for historians who used or wished to use computers in their work, whether that work was research or teaching; or Jean-Philippe Genet's L!0rdinateur et le Métier d'Historien (1990), from the conference at Talence, September 1989.

3 See <http://www.mediaartnet.org/Texteud.html> for a tour d'horizon.

4 Earlier, <http://www.ahip.getty.edu/>.

5 Online at <http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabulary/>. Other Getty projects have included the Union List of Artist Names; Guide for the Description of Architectural Drawings and Archives; Anthology of Museum Automation; Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA); The Provenance Index; The Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals; Witt Computer Index; Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance.

6 The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship 8,1 (March 1989), is largely devoted to computerization; the False Gods of the Editorial's title refers to the process of intellectual cheapening, not computers.

7 The SNS Centre di Elaborazione Automatica di Dati e Documenti Storico-Artistici produced a Bollettino d'Informazioni. Vol. 2 for 1981, for example, offered papers on computerization of a lexicon of goldsmiths' work; a report on a seminar to discuss digitization at the Bargello and Museo Stibbert in Florence, a catalogue of reused antique sarcophagi, and a report on the computerization of a Corpus dell'Arte Senese. For the later history of this organization, cf. <http://www.cribecu.sns.it/info/storia.html>.

8 See <http://www.fotomarburg.de>.

9 See <http://www.bildindex.de>.

10 Details in Baryla (1992–3: 23–4). NB: these were accompanied by a database.

11 See Debevec's notes for SIGGRAPH 99 Course no. 28, and cf. <http://www.debevec.org/Research/>; a course at SIGGRAPH 2002 was devoted to Recreating the Past: <http://www.siggraph.org/2002/conference/courses/crs27.html>; also Polleyes et al., Reconstruction Techniques with Applications in Archeology, at <http://www.esat.kuleuven.ac.be/sagalassos/3-Dreconstruction/3-D.html>.

12 Cf. Stenvert (1991), with its excellent bibliography.

13 For example, <http://www.seereal.com/default.en.htm> or the list at <http://www.mrl.nyu.edu/~perlin/courses/fall98/projects/autostereo.html>.

14 Cf. virtual library catalogues of art history, such as that at <http://www.ubka.unikarlsruhe.de/kvk/vkk/vk_kunst_engl.html> with the interface available in English, French, German, and Italian.

15 See Lancashire (1991: 9–17). These pages are devoted to art history. This gives an indication of the relatively slow start of this image-based discipline vis-a-vis text-based ones.

16 Romer, who had previously published a paper entitled A Keyword is Worth 1,000 Images, correctly concluded that "image and multimedia databases are heavily dependent on the quality of their stored descriptions" (1996: 55).

17 Such as the Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, or the CTI's Active Learning, no. 2, for July 1995, having the theme Using the Internet for Teaching.

18 See also Andrews and Greenhalgh (1987) and Richard and Tiedemann's Internet für Kunsthistoriker: Eine praxisorientierte Einführung (1999).

References for Further Reading

AHWA-AWHA:CIHA London 2000. Section 23: Digital Art History Time. Accessed: September 28, 2003. At http://www.unites.uqam.ca/AHWA/Meetings/2000.CIHA/.

Andrews, Derek and Michael Greenhalgh (1987). Computing for Non-Scientific Applications. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Autostereoscopic display project plan. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://www.mrl.nyu.edu/~perlin/courses/fall98/projects.autostereo.html.

Baryla, C. (1992–93). Les vidéodisques de la Bibliothèque Vaticane [The videodisks of the Vatican Library]. Le Médiéviste et I'Ordinateur 26–7: 23–4.

Bisogni, Fabio, (ed.) (1980). Metodologie di Analisi e di Catalogazione dei bent Culturali[Methodologies for the analysis and cataloguing of cultural property]. In the series Quaderni di Informatica e Beni Culturali, 2. Siena: Università degli Studi di Siena/Regione Toscana.

Bisogni, Fabio (ed.), (ed.) (1981). Sistemi di Trattamento di Dati e Immagini [The processing of data and images]. In the series Quaderni di Informatica e Beni Culturali, 4. Siena: Università degli Studi di Siena/Regione Toscana.

Bisogni, Fabio and Laura Corti (1980). Manuals Tecnico per I'Elaborazione Automatica di Dati Storico-Artistici [Technical manual for the automatic processing of art-historical data]. In the series Quaderni di Informatica e Beni Culturali, 1. Siena: Universita degli Studi di Siena/Regione Toscana.

Bowen, Jonathan (2003). Virtual Museum of Computing. The Virtual Library Museums Pages. Accessed September 28, 2003. Available at: http://vmoc.museophile.com/.

CENSUS: Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://bak-information.ub.tu-berlin.de/fachinfo/DBANKEN/CENSUS.html.

Cerri, Stefano A. (1983). Sistema esperto di elaborazione elettronica sui beni archeologici di Roma: Come un calculatore puo usare competenze archeologica per rispondere a domande ingenue e complesse [Expert system for the processing of Roman archaeological artifacts: how a computer can exploit archaeological information to respond to subtle and complex questions]. In the Conference Roma: Archeologia e Projetto, Campidoglio, Rome, pp. 23–28, 20.

CHArt: Computers and the History of Art. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://www.chart.ac.uk/.

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI). Humanities and Arts Report: Appendices. Last updated July 3, 2002. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://www.cni.org/projects.humartiway/humartiway-rpt.append.html.

Corti, Laura (1984). Census: Computerization in the History of Art, I, Pisa and Los Angeles: Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa / J. Paul Getty Trust Los Angeles.

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Direction des Musées de France base Joconde. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://www.culture.fr/documentation/joconde/pres.htm.

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Durran, Jennifer. Developments in Electronic Image Databases for Art History [1992–3]. Last updated April 14, 2000. First published in: Drinking From A Fire Hose: Managing Networked Information Conference Preprints (pp. 86–96). Victorian Association for Library Automation 7th Biennial Conference and Exhibition, November 9–11, 1993. Accessed September 28, 2003. At http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/visual_culture/about/staff/jdurran/vala_report.html.

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