Print Project Proposal: Art History in the Digital Age

While researching for potential ideas for this proposal, I stumbled upon an interesting WordPress website titled “Artists’ Studio Archives: Practical Strategies for Artists, Archivists, Librarians, and Museum Curators to Collect and Preserve Artists’ Archives.” One particular piece posted on the site led me to the Getty Scholar’s Workspace, which not only provides tools that make art history accessible online but also serves as a platform to view and interact with current and past digital art history projects.

This initiative—and the subfield of digital art history in and of itself—are relatively new undertakings. So, for this project, I would be interested in analyzing how the Getty Research Institute supports the ongoing work of art history scholars through digital means, and, by extension, how this work is contributing to an increased, diversified presence of art history online.

In the Institute’s own words, “The Digital Art History team at the Getty Research Institute sponsors and advises collaborative art-historical research and publication projects that facilitate access to and analysis of digitized objects, particularly those in the Institute’s collections…Critical to these projects is the development of innovative working methods and technological tools that can be adopted by the broader art-historical and cultural heritage communities.”

Current and past projects on the Institute’s site demonstrate incredible breadth, ranging from a study of Latin American modern artist Alfredo Boulton to an examination of the origins of the Bauhaus school of art and design. The Institute provides links to specific “outcomes” of each project, which are typically workshops, exhibitions, programs, and/or publications. My print project would take advantage of this unique aspect of the site through targeted analyses of projects and the perceived impact of their “outcomes.”

“Bauhaus Beginnings” is an active project of the Getty Research Institute. Below the project description, you can explore outcomes and related materials.

Additionally (per Dr. Owens’ recommendation), these analyses would incorporate relevant reports and papers to compare GRI’s projects to the current standards/expectations of the field. The Getty Foundation & Samuel H. Kress Foundation’s “Art History in Digital Dimensions: The White Paper,” for example, lays out some of the key issues Digital Art History faces and proposes recommendations to address them. These major concerns include: sustainability, diversity, valuing translators, training, and audience, among others. Each and every project listed on GRI’s site can be evaluated on the basis of at least one or two of these terms; thus providing critical context to answer the question: how do the Getty Research Institute’s Digital Art History projects and initiatives contribute to the growth and continued salience of the field?

2 Replies to “Print Project Proposal: Art History in the Digital Age”

  1. I absolutely love that you’re focusing in on art history! As someone who studied it in undergrad (and was one class away from a major), I truly appreciate you asking these questions about how art history and digital history can mix and critiquing it. This field is so new and has so many possibilities as your case study states of opening to new communities. I feel that the art history community “gate keeps” their things and digital history can burst through those golden gates so easily.

    I was curious with this project on image rights. It was always frustrating to go into a book store and see art history books that are $50+ because of all the images within and the author has to of course pay for those rights. I was wondering how digital art history has worked with this? How your case study fits with this maybe? Food for thought…

  2. Hi Karly,

    I think you have outlined a really interesting research project that is likely to generate compelling results. By scoping in on the Getty investments in this area, you have a well defined set of projects to look at. Along with that, you have a good set of resources in hand in the form of reports on this topic that can help establish criteria to bring into use in reviewing/evaluating these projects.

    That is, those reports and the Getty site itself, sets out the potential for what digital art history projects can do, and you then have the ability to delve into these projects and see the extent to which that potential is being realized or the ways that the projects themselves might illustrate and demonstrate different kinds of potential that had not already been identified/suggested.

    Kudos on having a clear and specific research question to guide your project! I think that “how do the Getty Research Institute’s Digital Art History projects and initiatives contribute to the growth and continued salience of the field?” is a really good way to approach and frame this. It does a nice job of walking the balance between being narrowly focused on projects from a particular institution and being more broadly about the future of digital art history. Given that Getty is such an important player in shaping this body of work, it makes sense to anchor the project there. There continues to be a good bit of activity around this topic/question so it would be good to look into some other related work like and which might also have other contexts for people or projects you could reference or connect with.

    If you do work with this as your full course project, I think it would be good to consider reaching out to both the people behind the projects and the team at Getty to share what you are working on and see if they would be up for answering questions about the work over email and or providing input on some of what you write up. It would be ideal if you could bring in what both Getty and the project teams believe their lessons learned and reflections on this work are too as that would be valuable context to bring into the paper. That would have the dual benefit of getting richer context for the paper and would be a useful networking/outreach activity for you as you work on this as part of your portfolio of work going forward.

    Overall, this is a really promising and well thought out concept for a project that focuses on a timely set of questions that there is a good bit of interest in.

    Best, Trevor

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