The Biodiversity Library’s Online Presence Grows

The Missouri Botanical Garden has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize natural history illustrations for the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Bird from the BioDivLibrary Flickr account

Bird from the BioDivLibrary Flickr account

The immediate connection between the NEH and the Biodiversity Heritage Library was not clear to me, but it is strong. These images (in addition to being sumptuous displays of flora) are the history of science. They are the documentation of the past that tells a story about how we have come to understand the world.  This is the place where science and the humanities meet.

Currently the collection is housed and manually managed on Flickr, but the grant will enable the library to build a more sophisticated collection management tool. There will now be multiple access points to this freely available resource. We can’t wait!

The biodiversity library includes images of birds by John James Audubon. If you are around the University of Illinois campus be sure to check out the Audubon display case on the second floor of the Main Library.

Personal Digital Archiving with the iLibrarian

ILibrarian

iLibrarian Blog

How many of us still have photos from our first digital cameras? Can you locate the paper you wrote on your desktop computer five years ago? Maybe your migrations between laptops and phones, across platforms and formats have been seamless, but for the rest of us there is some help. The iLibrarian blogger Ellyssa Kroski has been leading workshops

on personal archiving, and has graciously made some of her techniques available online.  Unfortunately, we can’t throw everything in a shoebox and know that it will be there twenty (or even two!) years down the line. Today’s effective personal archiving is not quite as easy as putting everything on an external hard drive either, but the extra effort is worthwhile.

She covers storage, organization and guidelines for thinking about file formats, in addition to a myriad of other concerns. Be a good steward of your own data with the iLibrarian!

Note: If you are on campus and interested in personal archives you may be interested in the Personal Digital Archiving conference on Thursday, April 12. Jeff Ubois, founder and frequent chair of the Personal Digital Archiving conference held at the Internet Archive will begin at 4 pm in Room 126 LIS (501 E. Daniel, Champaign).

WikiPainting: A place to put your art history skills to work

Still in beta mode, with room to grow, it is surprising the WikiPainting did not exist before. The good news is: it exists now and is growing quickly.

Senecio

Paul Klee's 'Senecio' from WikiPainting

Faceted searching by artist and artworks among other things let you wander the halls of this virtual museum on your own initiative. Explore the evolution of a personal style or the favored subject of an artist throughout time.

This non-profit, online repository for fine art has the ambitious goal of covering all of art history. And we aren’t talking just the canon here, everything from natural pigments on a stonewall in a cave to something a bit beyond MS Paint. Contribute content to WikiPainting if you can. Help it become a community tool for enriching our collective knowledge of art history.

Expanded Google Art Project: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Finding High Resolution Images

When Google introduced its Art Project last year, it made a big splash amongst art aficionados, educators, artists, curators, and researchers. There were 1,000 images available from 17 different institutions worldwide, enabling views to zoom in to view incredibly close details. However, almost all of these images were those from Western masters, which invited a flurry of critique to the project. Many of these same art aficionados, educators, artists, curators, and researchers offered ideas on how to enhance the project, and Google listened.

Today, the Art Project includes over 30,000 images from 155 institutions worldwide (street view for 46) , with more on the way. All sizes and types of institutions are embraced, including the White House in Washington D.C. to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, India.

In addition to adding 29,000 new images to the Art Project, Google has been busy enhancing the tools used to discover and share art. Amit Sood from the Art Project writes:

“Here are a few other new things in the expanded Art Project that you might enjoy:

  • Using completely new tools, called Explore and Discover, you can find artworks by period, artist or type of artwork, displaying works from different museums around the world.
  • Google+ and Hangouts are integrated on the site, enabling you to create even more engaging personal galleries.
  • Street View images are now displayed in finer quality. A specially designed Street View “trolley” took 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries which were then stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums. You can also explore the gallery interiors directly from within Street View in Google Maps.
  • We now have 46 artworks available with our “gigapixel” photo capturing technology, photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution so you can study details of the brushwork and patina that would be impossible to see with the naked eye.
  • An enhanced My Gallery feature lets you select any of the 30,000 artworks—along with your favorite details—to build your own personalized gallery. You can add comments to each painting and share the whole collection with friends and family. (It’s an ideal tool for students.)”

The Art Project works under the auspices of the Google Cultural Institute, which is “building tools that make it simple to tell the stories of our diverse cultural heritage and make them accessible worldwide.” For those of you not so interested in art, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Yad Vashem Commemoration of the Holocost, Digitized Dead Sea Scrolls, La France en relief, and Le Pavillion de l’Arsenal projects may interest you.

While the Art Project is without a doubt exciting, some of you may be wondering how this competes with your other favorite high resolution database: ARTstor. The main difference is that while Google’s Art Project may be fancier to look at and the images an even higher resolution, viewers are still not able to download images for in class presentations. If you want to show your students what Van Gogh’s brushstrokes looked like, you’ll have to take a screenshot and add it to a PowerPoint (or whatever presentation software you use). ARTstor, however, is much more educator friendly. With tools to share your image collections that don’t involve social media and presentation tools such as the Offline Image Viewer, you’re still bound to ‘wow’ your students. Additionally, ARTstor boasts over one million images in its database verses the 30,000 in the Art Project. That’s about 34x the amount of images (or something, I didn’t go into math for a reason)!

So, to sum up: Google Art Project is now more amazing. ARTstor is still amazing. Happy viewing!