The History of the World in 100 Objects

Two-Headed Serpent, detail
While doing some research earlier today, I came across a fascinating project undertaken by the British Museum called “The History of the World in 100 Objects.” Many of you may already be familiar with this project, as I’ve come to find out the results of this project were broadcast on the BBC throughout 2010 as well as in a book that was published a mere 4 days ago.

For those of you not familiar with this project, its goal was to tell the history of the world through 100 objects found in the British Museum’s sprawling collections. Taking 100 curators 4 years to complete, the results include objects that embody themes ranging to political power to everyday life. To coincide with the project, the public was invited to share stories of objects that hold significance to them.

100 objects to tell the history of the world is a daunting task to be sure, but it raises some important questions. Why is one object more important than another? Are aesthetics or usefulness considered more important? What are these objects telling us now that may not have been appreciated in its time?

If you’d like to start your own “100 Objects” project, you can do so in ARTstor by creating image groups. If you’d like to make this a class assigment, you can do so by either creating a folder that your students can edit, or creating a folder that has student folders enabled.

More resources:

Stuff that Defines Us by Carol Vogel

History of the World in 100 Objects Slideshow by the New York Times


copyright articles and resources

An unfortunate part of working with digital collections and other visual resources is dealing with copyright. While we can’t answer specific questions, we can provide you with some resources that may help steer you in the right direction. Here are a couple:

Recently Nancy Sims, the copyright program librarian at the University of Minnesota, was on campus to talk about copyright and academia. As both a lawyer and a librarian, her voice on such matters is highly valued. Back in May of this year she was interviewed by Jennifer Howard of the Chronicle of Higher Education, with the resulting article being called “What you don’t know about copyright, but should.” The article reads as a bulleted list of pointers about copyright, and provides much food for thought.

Not too long after the Chronicle of Higher Education published the article about Nancy Sims, it came out with another copyright article written by Jeffrey R. Young about fair use in education. Called “Pushing back against legal threats by putting fair use forward,” it features two scholars at American University—Patricia Aufderheide, a film-studies professor, and Peter Jaszi, a law professor. The two professors recently published a book titled Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright, which deals with what they call misperceptions about the fair-use rules of U.S. copyright law. This is not the first time Aufderheide and Jaszi have worked together;  since 1996 they have been researching fair use and publishing guidelines for different types of creative work, such as documentary filmmaking. While I haven’t read the book, it sounds like it could be a great read on a complex topic.

Dipity timelines

For visual learners, sometimes a timeline can be just the thing to help put history into some sort of context. Dipity, a free digital timeline website who’s mission is to “organize the web’s content by date and time,” allows users to create, share, embed, and collaborate on timelines. These aren’t just any timelines either; they integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location, and timestamps to create something engaging and interactive.

Dipity stands out amongst other timelines, such as Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Art History Timeline, as it can be customized to represent individual art historical movements, individual artists, or even individual works of art. It is especially useful for those studying social history, as political movements and new stories are often featured. Dipity also features many of the social networking features that many users expect to see, such as the ability to follow, or subscribe to already created timelines, and sharing via twitter, facebook, myspace, digg, and stumbleupon.

Due to its rich media integration and collaborative nature, Dipity is a great tool for students and faculty alike.


Ara Pacis Augustae collection

Developed by Charles S. Rhyne at Reed College in conjunction with Reed’s Visual Resources Center and Web Support Services, the Ara Pacis Augustae collection seeks to “to make available a more comprehensive body of images of the Ara Pacis than previously available in any print or web publication.” According to Professor Rhyne, “the Ara Pacis Augustae is a complex masterpiece, with elaborate reliefs including more than a hundred figures and voluminous vegetation filled with the details of nature. It is also a much damaged and reconstructed monument, making it important to distinguish original from later portions and more recent changes. This web site attempts to provide in-depth visual documentation in support of the in-depth scholarly publications that have so enriched our understanding of Augustan art and society.’

The site is neatly organized into different views of the altar, such as aerial views, interior walls, and public approach. Also included are several different publications detailing the Ara Pacis. The site is copyrighted by Reed College and Charles Rhyne, but indicates that images images and text are available under fair use guidelines.

Overall, this is a well organized and thorough exploration of one of the most iconic architectural monuments in Western history. However, users must use the images within the site, as they cannot be downloaded.

Tourist photos from pre-Revolutionary Moscow

For all you Russian history aficionados out there, this collection is a fascinating look at Moscow in 1909. Taken by journalist Murray Howe on an exhibition tour of American champion trotting horses, 77 of the 400 photos taken were digitized and made available via Flickr by Howe’s great-grandson, Andrew Howe V.

The Moscow Times writes of the photographs, “His photographs of pedestrians, street venders and aristocrats are rare glimpses of everyday life before the upheavals of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution — and sparked huge interest in Russia among history buffs and local museums.”

While downloading images from the Flickr site is currently disabled, those interested in using the images can contact Andrew Howe at

Google Chrome apps for Images

ChromeI never thought I would fall for a web browser, but Google has captured my heart with Chrome. I was at first intrigued by its claims of being the fastest web browser in terms of site loading time, but having used it for a while now I’ve discovered even more time saving features.

Many of you are already familiar with apps for your smart phones, but what about your web browser? Go to the Google Chrome web store, and you’ll find many free apps related to image retrieval, image editing, and even 3D modeling.

Let’s start with image retrieval. In Google Chrome, you can search the web for an image on your hard drive (for example, if you’re not sure what the image is of, or you need a higher resolution image) by simply dragging and dropping that image into the search box at If you don’t want to be bothered to have to go to the Google Images page, download the Chrome extension and simply right click (or ctrl click) on an image to search. The extension only works for images found on the web, however. An alternative extension has been developed by Tineye, which some of you may already be familiar with. While the Google extension will recall web pages that include the image your searched for, as well as pages about the artist, Tineye recalls strictly the image.

Let’s say you found the image you’re looking for, but the color is a bit off. There are a few web-based image editing apps in Chrome, but I like to use the Aviary Image Editor. Aviary Phoenix is a fairly robust piece of free image editing software, and the app is no exception. There are over 30 editing tools, including rotate, brightness/contrast, and sharpen. The app allows you to edit images within the browser, and then either download or share on a social networking site. If you teach with images found online often, this app can help you improve the quality of your images.

To resize and reformat images, you can use the handy Extreme Image Converter. This app allows users to upload an image, convert it to any of 13 different file formats, and specify the size (keeping in mind that it is easier to reduce size than increase size).

If you prefer 3D models to digital images, install 3DTin and start creating your own. It’s a little bit like Google SketchUp, but less robust and more user friendly. When you’re done, you can save your model in the cloud, or export in standard 3D file formats (OBJ, STL).

There are many more apps and extensions available than the ones listed here, and they are either searchable or browsable by category. Enjoy!

Ando Hiroshige Prints


Odawara - the tenth station in "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido"( Hoeido edition 1831 - 1834)

The Woodblock Prints of Ando Hiroshige is an enthusiast-maintained site that reproduces the woodblock prints of Ando Hiroshige (1797 – 1858).

The site combines digital images of Hiroshige’s prints with descriptions, dates, and abundant contextual material including primary source excerpts, maps, encyclopedic entries, book passages, and comparable works by other artists. The site presents a rich resource on the life and work of Ando Hiroshige and can be accessed freely online by anyone.

A timeline of updates made to the site creates a timeline of the site’s development, while the main page of the site presents directories of Hiroshige’s prints and the reference material used in constructing the site. The reference section includes a bibliography, a guide to searching for Japanese prints online, a digest of links that are related or useful to Hiroshige, a breakdown of the dimensions of different prints, essays, biographies, and more. The prints are organized by series (which usually explore a single subject) as well as format and theme.

The site design is simple and straight forward, if text-heavy at times, but it manages to present an enormous amount of material and a wealth of resources related to Hiroshige’s prints. The site is a valuable resource for Hiroshige enthusiasts and scholars alike and sets a fantastic example for similar projects.

‘Friends of art’ seeks to crowdsource the history of art

Gustav Klimt's "Farmhouse with Birch Trees"
“Farmhouse with Birch Trees” by Gustav Klimt (1903)

‘Friends of art’ (FOA) self identifies as, “a young community of art enthusiasts who are re-writing art history”. Currently in the beta stage, FOA invites users to contribute and curate content about artists, movements, and individual pieces. Users can register with the site to create a profile, build personal collections, and designate favorite artists, pieces, and movements.

In addition to using the site to develop and expand your own knowledge, as a FOA user, your activity is reflected in the records. When a piece has been added to a user’s collection, that collection is cited in the record as a way of capturing and communicating to other users the way someone else responded to or learned from the work. In this way, FOA creates a kind of social network that revolves around the art presented and discussed on the site.

Each record invites comments, revisions, tagging, and sharing as means of involving the user, but they also include images of the piece and the artist as well as basic information about the piece. The site pairs a spare aesthetic with a proliferation of images in order to create a highly browsable environment. The records also offer a ‘palette’ for each work, where the piece’s color palette is characterized, distilled and presented as a collection of 10 different shades. The site also includes search functions and a timeline of artistic movements. The breadth, depth, and variety of the resources and functionality of FOA strike a balance that makes it easy for users to search, browse, and interact with art history in a new way.