Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all, I am hoping to make this blog a bit more regular this year, but I am also hoping to finish my PhD so we shall see how it goes. I am back at my desk after a very lazy week off, I have a plan for a chapter for an exhibition catalogue due on Monday and I am also chasing down some images and publication rights for another article and this prompted me to list some of my favourite galleries, museums and organisations that provide excellent online image databases. The online image database has really come into its own in the last couple of years with more collections online and also with more gallleries and museums attempting to put a comprehensive cataliogue of most obhjects in their collections rather than just a highlights pacakage.
Some galleries are also making it possible for researchers to download high quality images for personal research or scholarly publication free of charge.
Here are a couple I have been using regularly or have recently discovered.

The British Museum
main website - search the collections
This is a huge database with over 1 million images catalogued and over 200 000 of these have accompanying images. The record for each item gives the full title, author, materials, date, school/style, culture, dimensions and inscriptions, a short description, bibliographic details and provenance.
My most recent download was this image by 18th century artist/architect and landscape designer William Kent, see the full record here.

The Victoria and Albert Museum
main website - search collections
Another very big database, with around 30 000 works. I find the search function a bit odd, I sometimes have trouble relocating works I know I have seen on the database and a recent search with the keyword 'photo' only brought up 12 results and I get frustrated that none of the works I am currently studying are online! When you do find the record though you get a high quality image in two sizes, author, date, title, place dimensions and good descriptions and like the BM they allow downloads of high quality images for scholarly and non-profit use. I recently downloaded this image of an 18th century bed curtain - see the full record here.

Catena Digital Archive
main site here
This site was created by the Bard Graduate Center through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Catena. It is described as "part of a larger, typologically organized archive of digital images with accompanying educational materials." The database provides high quality images which include modern and historical photos of gardens as well as images of prints or rare books. You can either search or browse. At the moment the focus is mainly upon Italian gardens but it also has some images of other European gardens and a couple of American ones. You need to register and use specific software to download images.

Other image databases I use regularly include
RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects).
State Library of Victoria and the Australian National Library.
Web Gallery of Art.

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