1. Introduction/ Overview to DH and DAH

Digital Art History has a set of needs that can be more specific than what most Digital Humanities guides offer. In this chapter, both fields are introduced and the differences between Digital Humanities (DH) and Digital Art History (DAH) are clarified.

1.1 Readings

Baca, Murtha, Anne Helmreich, and Nuria Rodríguez Ortega, eds. Digital Art History. Vol. 29, no. 2. Special issue of Visual Resources Journal. March–June 2013.

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.

Cuno, James. “Beyond Digitization—New Possibilities in Digital Art History.” The Getty Iris, January 29, 2014.

Fawcett, Trevor. “Visual Facts and the Nineteenth­ Century Art Lecture.” Art History 6, no. 4 (December 1983): 442–60. doi:Article.

Kelly, Kristin. Images of Works of Art in Museum Collections: The Experience of Open Access. Mellon Foundation, April 2013.

Liu, Alan, “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.” PMLA 128 (2013): 409-23.

McPherson, Tara. “Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” Cinema Journal 48, no. 2 (2008): 119–23.

Nelson, Robert S. “The Slide Lecture, or the Work of Art ‘History’ in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 3 (Spring 2000): 414–34.

Sundt, Christine L. “Research Resources at Our Fingertips.” Visual Resources 29, no. 4 (2013): 269–72. doi:10.1080/01973762.2013.846774.

Zorich, Diane M. Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, May 2012.

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1.2 Resources

Effort is currently coalescing around DHCommons to create a master DH repository, but it is difficult to keep such a list current and comprehensive. The following links are starting points to finding more DH resources.

DHCommons: The closest thing DH has to a registry of projects, DHCommons has recently been “adopted” by CenterNet (an organization of DH centers) and is branching out to include a journal with reviews of mid-state DH projects. Project participants contribute their own project descriptions, and people who are interested in working on DH projects can volunteer.

National Endowment for the Humanities Grants Database: An invaluable repository of projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities, including things like timelines, budget narratives, and other useful pieces of information. Restrict your search to the “Digital Humanities” division.

Drucker’s Project Repo: This resource developed by Johanna Drucker sketches the history of Digital Art History through projects. There is also a connected presentation called “Digital Art History?” that explain the project repo in greater detail.

Digital Art History: Nuts & Bolts: This presentation by Murtha Baca lays out some basics for doing digital art history.

What is Digital_Humanities?: A presentation by Todd Presner that offers a brief introduction to Digital Humanities.

DH Toychest: Guides and Introductions: A set of resources curated by Alan Liu that includes information on academic blogging and tweeting, the job market for DH graduate students, and evaluating DH scholarship for promotion and tenure.

The CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide: A collaboratively produced introduction to the field of DH as part of the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI), a growing working group for applying digital technologies to research and pedagogy in the humanities.

Gettying Started in Digital Humanities: A how-to guide by Lisa Spiro that offers step-by-step instructions on joining the DH field.

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1.3 Tutorials

You do not have to be a technical expert to do DAH work. However, a baseline understanding of popular tools and technologies can often prove very useful for determining your project’s approach and methodology. The following resources offer tutorials on a wide range of tools to help you get your project done.

Lynda: If your institution doesn’t subscribe to this library of videos, you’ll have to pay $25–$37.50 a month. But it may be worth it — this is my go-to way to learn a new skill. The list of topics is ridiculously comprehensive, and the quality of instruction and production is uniformly high (much better than you’ll get from YouTube videos). Some people find watching videos tedious as compared to jumping around in a book, but Lynda does do a nice job keying its transcripts to videos and breaking up videos into three- to five-minute chunks.

Programming Historian: A popular collection of tutorials aimed specifically at humanities scholars. That means the skills it teaches are things you’ll actually want to do, like scrape the web for research data and format it into tables.

“How Did They Make That?”: A guide to help DHers reverse-engineer digital projects to that they can re-create them on their own. See also the video.

Digital Humanities Questions & Answers: A bulletin board where DHers new and expert can ask each other questions. Beginner questions are welcome. It is a friendly and helpful community.

LibGuides Community: The downside of LibGuides, the reference guides your library probably uses, is that they can be difficult to navigate and appear overwhelming. The upside is that you can search all the tutorials and reference guides (all written by experts) at once from this site. While this resource is less well-known, it can be extremely useful. Try searching, for example, for “text analysis.”

“Some Things I Hope You Will Find Useful Even if Statistics Isn’t Your Thing”: An article by George L. Cowgill that may convince you that statistical analysis could benefit your project.

Statistics for the Humanities: Developed by John Canning, this resources is for those that find that they need mathematical skills for the advanced study of other subjects, including humanities and social science subjects.

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1.4 Tools

These tool directories are a great place to start looking if you are unsure what is available to help you complete your project.

Digital Research Tools (DiRT) Directory: This is the best and most comprehensive list of DH tools. Because it is well-known and supported within the DH community, it is generally up to date.

DH Toychest: Digital Humanities Resources for Project Building: An excellent list that includes the tools, tutorials, and resources that Alan Liu uses in his DH courses at UC Santa Barbara.

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1.5 Projects

While the other chapters will offer projects more specific to the chapter topic, here is a list of Museum Digital Projects that are good to know for anyone getting to know the field of Digital Art History. Also, see the project lists compiled by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University: Art History Collections (Highlights) and Digital Art History Web Highlights.


The Digital Museum: A blog presenting noteworthy digital projects in the cultural sector.

Visualizations and Analyses of Museum Data

“Hacking on Cooper-Hewitt’s Data Release at THATCamp, or, How to Get Me to Work for Free”: An article by Patrick Murray-John discussing his initial attempt to work with the Cooper-Hewitt’s open dataset, including some of the complications and possibilities for future projects.

Mensink et al., “The Rijksmuseum Challenge: Museum-Centered Visual Recognition”: Poster describing attempts to categorize the Rijksmuseum’s collection of 112,039 photographs using computerized image-recognition.

“Mia Ridge Explores the Shape of Cooper-Hewitt Collections”: Mia Ridge discusses her attempt to work with the Cooper-Hewitt’s open data using Open Refine and ManyEyes.

Color History of the Cooper-Hewitt Collection: Visualization of the colors found in the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection by decade.

Brooklyn Museum API Gallery: List of applications created using the Brooklyn Museum’s API, including the Reciprocal Research Network, which allows indigenous communities to contribute knowledge about cultural heritage.

Curatorial Poetry: Tumblr blog by Cooper-Hewitt Labs that reproduces Cooper-Hewitt collection metadata as poetry.

“The Changing Shape of Dutch Paintings in the National Gallery of Art”: Visualizations of data about the National Gallery of Art’s collection of Dutch paintings by Matthew Lincoln reveal the hands of different curators over time.

Visualizations created using the Tate Gallery’s collection metadata: After the Tate made its metadata freely available, a number of developers created visualizations and interfaces with it. Some favorites include the metadata explorer, this set of visualizations, and Oliver Keyes’s Art as Data as Art (which also has a Part II).

Exploring Andean Pottery: Created as a class project for a UCLA DH capstone class, this site explores, augments, analyzes, and visualizes metadata about the Fowler Museum’s collection of ancient Andean pottery.

Colour Lens, MetaLAB: An interface for exploring works of art (from the Walker, the Wolfsonian, and the Rijksmuseum) by color.

Noteworthy Catalogues and Interfaces to Collections

Online Editions, National Gallery of Art: Collection images are presented in a book-like environment that allows for side-by-side exploration, enhanced search, and the presentation of peer-reviewed scholarship.

Digital Archive of Queensland Architecture: Metadata for the collection is housed in an RDF triple-store database, allowing users to visualize relationships, plot data on maps and timelines, and create “compound objects” (outlines of research trajectories). The Archive also makes its data available via an API.

Luce Foundation Center for American Art 2013 Hackathon: A 2013 hackathon asked digital experts to reimagine the visual storage space at the Luce Center.

MoMA Multimedia Projects: A set of interactive websites, most tied to particular MoMA exhibits, including a catalogue of Louise Bourgeois prints and books and a site that allows the user to create her own Andy Warhol screen test.

MoMA Projects: A site that archives the work of close to 200 avante-garde artists.

SF MOMA Artscope: Allows users to navigate the collection as an image grid, in which collection objects can be clicked, dragged, and magnified.

The Online Scholarly Catalogue Initative (OSCI): An initiative of the Getty Foundation, OSCI aims to transform museums’ scholarly catalogs for the digital age. Nine museums are currently part of the consortium: the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago; the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Seattle Art Museum; Tate; and the Walker Art Center. See, for example, the Walker Art Center’s On Performativity.

The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Numerous timelines tied to maps present works from the Met’s collection in context.

One Met, Many Worlds, Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collection highlights from the Met are presented via an interface that unites elements of disparate images by conceptual keyword (like “tailored” or “shimmering”) and allows users to present their own pairings.

Smithsonian X3D: Smithsonian experts use cutting-edge 3D visualization techniques to take visitors on guided tours of artifacts.

Artist and Audience Engagement Strategies

Artists Respond, LACMA: Artists respond to LACMA exhibitions.

Mark Bradford Project, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art: Artist Mark Bradford works with local teens to create digital art based on mapping their own communities.

MoMA Art Lab iPad App: iPad app designed to introduce children to modern art.

Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art: MOOC (massive, open, online course) created by MoMA in partnership with Coursera.

Story Board, SF MOMA: A site that allows users to aggregate social media channels related to artist, institutions, and collectives in six cities.

SF MOMA Interactive Features: A set of websites tied to particular SF MOMA exhibits, many with interactive elements.

Connections, Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met’s staff members present multimedia commentary on broad themes that draw from the Met’s collection (like “Clouds” or “Pilgrimage”).

82nd & 5th, Metropolitan Museum of Art: Met curators each describe one work of transformative art in a video enhanced by 360-degree rotatable images.

A Closer Look, Louvre: Rotate artworks, magnify them, and read scholarly analyses side-by-side with the pieces.

Art Swipe, LACMA: iPad app that allows patrons to create their own collages from LACMA’s catalog.

Additional Museum Projects

Steve: A social-tagging project that includes the collections of a number of different institutions.

The Variable Media Initiative, Guggenheim Museum: A nontraditional preservation strategy to preserve media-based and performative works by defining the artwork independently from the medium.

Ukiyo-E: This federated catalogue of Japanese woodblock prints can retrieve visually similar prints and allows the user to identify similar prints by uploading an image.

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