Digital Libraries and Initiatives: Digital Libraries for Museums


(above:  Richard Hayley Lever, Winter, St. Ives, c. 1914, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches, Brooklyn Museum, Caroline H. Polhemus Fund. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Digital Libraries for Museums

A museum can develop a digital library accessible on the Web similar to the TFAO Digital Library. TFAO defines a digital library as a "integrated set of services for acquiring, cataloging, storing, searching, protecting, and retrieving information in a digital format. Digital libraries are a collection of a large number of digital records and files, comprising various types of material and media, that are organized, managed and stored in distributed information repositories and accessed through computers. Digital libraries can include converted media or original material produced for the World Wide Web."



A growing number of museums are publishing on their web sites digital images of art objects in their collections. When a museum creates a catalogue of digital images and descriptions of the art objects contained in its collection it is creating a significant part of a digital library.[1]

Other materials converted from analog to digital media can include:

Museums are increasingly publishing original materials in audio, illustrated audio and video format. Other creative projects can be developed and placed in digital libraries. For example, Purdue University created Women Artists of the American West, an Internet course and interdisciplinary resource which includes numerous essays.


Getting Started

TFAO suggests that museums:


(above: Leon Gaspard, Russian Peasant Parade, 1911,  Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)



1. The conversion of analog photos of art works to digital images, or original digital photography of art works, followed by cataloging and online assess, has been a focus of American museums and cooperative image libraries for several years. Examples of joint image repositories are ARTstor and AMICO Library. For texts, JSTOR is an archive of backfiles of traditional serials, excluding museum catalogue essays and other texts. Access to the contents of these three services is fee-based. Some museums are recently publishing on their web sites texts from contemporary exhibition catalogues, checklists and even PDF images of exhibition brochures and catalogues.

2. See Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art's Digitalization Project including Contemporary American Sculpture Exhibition, June 17 - October 2, 1916; An Exhibition of Paintings by George Bellows, September 11 - October 5, 1919. Also see back issues articles from American Art (magazine of the Smithsonian American Art Museum). American Furniture provides full text of articles for the years 1993-1996 from the Chipstone Foundation. Ohio History is the scholarly journal of the Ohio Historical Society. In fall 2002, Ohio History converted from a print subscription publication to an online journal, bracketing years from 1887 to 2000, available free of charge. Numerous artists, including Robert S. Duncanson, John P. Frankenstein, J. T. Turner, William Thomas Mathews, Thomas Walker Cridland and Thomas Cole are noted in articles.

3. See from Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University [Links at found expired as of 2/13 audit. TFAO is saving the citation for your reference]:

4. Digitization projects are expanding at a rapid pace. Google Print, the Google/Stanford/Harvard/U. Michigan project, the Million Book Project, Gutenberg, and commercial publisher projects are examples. The timing and scope of these projects will influence the direction of a museum's digitization program.

5. TFAO provides financial assistance for digitization and online publication of scholarly texts. For information please click here.

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Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

*Tag for expired US copyright of object image:


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