Domestic Interiors Database: the new HGTV?

As much as I keep it a secret, I do have to admit that I love shows about buying and selling homes. There’s nothing like watching interior decorators transform a space, watching newlyweds fight about what room to make their office and which to make their guest room, and seeing a dilapidated house change from potentially-haunted into a modern, cozy, living space. Instead of binge-watching HGTV and watching people fawn over their granite counter tops, there’s also an excellent archive of domestic interiors that spans both time and space.

Compiled by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Center for the Study of the Domestic Interior, this archive was built between 2001 and 2006, as a part of the AHRC’s mission to “ensure that knowledge and understanding by arts and humanities research is widely disseminated for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of the UK and beyond.” The archive features over 3,000 entries, spanning six centuries of interior designs.

The Domestic Interior Database (DIDB) is interested in investigating the way the use of domestic space changed over time, decorative and functional objects within domestic interiors, and how people of these times considered their spaces. These questions are posed through the accumulation  of both reference information and interpretive data, supported through images such as: Renaissance paintings, popular magazines, eighteenth century graphic-satire, and drawings. Textually-based evidence is sourced from novels, poetry, diaries, letters, advertisements, and periodicals. Due to the plethora of visual culture materials sourced, and the wide-range of supporting text-based materials, this is truly an interdisciplinary archive that may prove useful for many times of research going beyond domestic interiors.

The DIDB is also an incredibly transparent archive, with a separate page devoted to discussing the research methodologies that went in to selecting and curating materials to be a part of the database, as well as selected bibliographies. When searching on the DIDB, you can even save searches and results for long-term projects. To begin searching through the archive, simply enter a keyword in the search box on the upper-right hand corner. For example, I searched for ‘magazines’ and returned with 303 results spanning the years 1769-2005.

A revolution in the printing industry in the eighteenth century stimulated a rise in serial publications and an improvement in printing techniques. The Town and Country magazine included illustrated plates…(1769)

Each record provides basic information about the artifact, but also adds scholarly commentary about the image, and lists themes, representational strategies, and a break down of the space to aid in a user’s understanding of the image. For example, in a survey of a 1945 photograph of a war submarine’s living quarters, the record lists the type of dwelling this space would be considered (institutional and residential), the quantity of rooms within the space (Dining room, workspace), and the objects within the space (coverings, furniture, equipment). The final entry in these records gives suggestions of related archive entries to view.

“This official photograph shows part of the wardroom (officers’ quarters) of the submarine HMS Tribune. Even in the extremely cramped interior of the submarine, attempts were made to incorporate the usual, class-specific visual vocabulary of officer status with, for instance, dark wooden paneling, magazine racks and furniture such as wardrobes.”

In addition to these types of entries, design fanatics can enjoy a historical take on familiar domestic spaces. For example, I was able to find this 1947 book illustration on advice for setting up a ‘proper’ living room:

“This double-page illustrated guide to arranging and decorating the living room is one of four selected from Modern Homes Illustrated of 1947 which offers practical suggestions to readers for laying out different rooms in the house. The advice above features both a traditional recipe for converting an attic room into a functional living room and a more modern ‘open-plan’ version on the ground floor.”

The archive maintains compelling artifacts that show the evolution of domestic spaces in multiple eras, locations, and from perspectives of different class levels and occupations. These mass-produced guides on living room arrangement are drastically different from Renaissance oil paintings of bourgeois interiors:

“It shows a large interior space, with glazed windows and leather hangings, but which is otherwise almost empty. Scale and the surface decoration of the walls are given most weight. It is often interpreted as a courtesans’ interior. The proximity of the seated man and woman, the woman playing music, and the dancing suggest sociability, but the bed which is prominently depicted behind the couple does suggest a sense of heightened sexuality.”

Whatever corner of the archive you find yourself searching through, make sure to steal some design-inspiration for your own home!

Halloween and TMA Air Photos

Last night, I had started mentally outlining a post about a wonderful new free resource that enables users to assess image quality based on calibration targets included in their images. But then I remembered that it’s Halloween, and I should instead pull together a post based on a spooky Halloween themed collection.

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While I came across a lot of great Halloween related material, including this collection from Wellcome Images, this 1903 film directed by Georges Méliès, and some charming children’s costumes via DPLA , what I decided to write about chilled me above all else. It is not a Medieval monster or menacing mummy, but rather a reminder of the very real Midwest winter to come. Specifically, it is the Antarctic Air Photography collection from the University of Minnesota.

Developed by the Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) at the University of Minnesota, this collection is comprised of more than 330,000 air photos, which were collected and scanned by the USGS EROS Data Center. The collection contains trimetrogon aerial photography, which is a method of taking three photos at one time: one vertical (in this collection, designated by a “V” in the filename), along with left and right obliques (at a 45° angle off nadir; designated by either “L” or “R”) taken along a single TMA flight line.

The easiest way to find Antarctic TMA photos, digitized flightline index maps, and approximate photo centers is through the PGC’s TMA Flightline Viewer, a web app that runs in your browser. The application allows users to browse and download Antarctic air photos digitally rather than having to search through rolls of film in the USGS archives. We even have camera calibration information here for those who need it.

Additionally, the PGC provides TMA flightline and photocenters data in two GIS formats: ESRI shapefiles (.shp) and Google Earth KMZ files. The files are separated by Antarctic region, such as Marie Byrd Land or Ross Island.

Users may also look up photos manually, rather than browsing by flightline or geographic region. A breakdown of USGS naming conventions is provided in order to help one navigate the data.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, and bundle up!

New Getty images added to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

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Albert Smith’s Mont Blanc and China : Egyptian Hall., [ca. 1859]

Last year, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was launched in order to bring the special collections of numerous cultural heritage institutions across the county together on one platform. The New York Public Library, the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard Library, and our very own University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are counted among DPLA’s twenty three partners. Among the over 8 million items included in DPLA are about 100,000 newly added items from the Getty Research Institute.

The Getty Research Institute and DPLA are both committed to making American society’s digitized cultural heritage as openly accessible as possible, and furthermore offers tools such as geo-mapping and timeline options to encourage users such as software developers and researchers to use content transformatively. In addition to partnering with institutions in the United States, DPLA is also collaborating with its European counterpart, Europeana, to provide unified access to collections in both portals through a single search.

The Getty Research Institute’s contribution to DPLA includes items from the 15th century to the present, with highlights being photographs from architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s archive, the Jacobson collection of Orientalist photography, Edouard Manet’s letters, ledgers of art dealers, and painting inventories.

According to Allison Meier, “The Getty Research Institute will continue to add more in the partnership, and also this month, the Medical Heritage Library and the US Government Printing Office contributed thousands of items to the DPLA. The collection’s ultimate worth will, of course, come from how these resources are used, but the DPLA is quickly becoming essential for the growing digitized archives.”

Sources:

Meier, Allison. (2014). Getty adds thousands of art historical images to growing digital library. Retrieved from http://hyperallergic.com/150092/getty-adds-thousands-of-art-historical-images-to-growing-digital-library/

Salomon, Kathleen. (2014). 10,000 digitized art history materials from The Getty Research Institute available in DPLA. http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/100000-digitized-art-history-materials-from-the-getty-research-institute-availble-in-dpla/

Wellcome Images Releases Over 100,000 Historical Images Online With CC-BY License

Wellcome Images, developed by the Wellcome Library in London, England, has announced the release of over 100,000 images now freely available under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. Users can download high resolution images to be used for personal or commercial purposes, with an acknowledgement to the Wellcome Library.

While Wellcome Images focuses mainly on images related health, medicine, and biomedical science, the content found in its vast collection spills into numerous other disciplines such as the arts and humanities. More information about the collection and Wellcome Library’s open access policy can be found below.

A woman diving off a bathing wagon in to the sea.

Venus getting ready for Summer Olympics 2016

From the Wellcome Library blog:

The images can be downloaded in high-resolution directly from the Wellcome Images website for users to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon as you wish, for personal or commercial use. The images range from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh andFrancisco Goya.

The earliest item is an Egyptian prescription on papyrus, and treasures include exquisite medieval illuminated manuscripts and anatomical drawings, from delicate 16th century fugitive sheets, whose hinged paper flaps reveal hidden viscera to Paolo Mascagni’s vibrantly coloured etching of an ‘exploded’ torso.

Other treasures include a beautiful Persian horoscope for the 15th-century prince Iskandar, sharply sketched satires by RowlandsonGillray and Cruikshank, as well as photography from  Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of motion. John Thomson’s remarkable nineteenth century portraits from his travels in China can be downloaded, as well a newly added series of photographs of hysteric and epileptic patients at the famous Salpêtrière Hospital

Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, says “Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation. As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

If you are using Internet Explorer, just clear your browser cache to ensure that you’re directed to the updated site with the high resolution content.

Should you need any more information about the launch of these historical images, please don’t hesitate to contact the Wellcome Images team.

Your Paintings: Putting the UK’s entire national collection of over 200,000 oil paintings online

In an article from The Guardian, art correspondent Mark Brown wrote, “The Public Catalogue Foundation [PCF], announced that it had succeeded, in partnership with the BBC, in its mission to put images of every publicly owned oil painting in the UK online – that means every painting, good or bad, on display or in stores, and whether owned by museums, galleries, councils or universities. Those held by police stations, zoos and a lighthouse are also included.”

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The online collection recently made the news when an art historian using Your Paintings identified a previously unknown painting as the work of 17th Century master Van Dyck.

The PCF will continue to work on Your Paintings as there are still nearly 30,000 paintings which are unattributed and it wants to correct that. It is also planning a similar exercise for publicly owned sculpture.

You may browse the collection at Your Paintings’ website, and there is also a Tagger Project that invites users to participate and help to make Your Paintings more searchable.

Help us tag the Nation's Art Collection

Through Frida’s Lens

Photo of Frida Kahlo

Frida and furry friend

Frida Kahlo is a perennial favorite, and her portraiture has made her face as familiar to many of us as that of an old friend. Still, there is something very satisfying about a recently revealed collection of Kahlo’s personal photos. A handful of them were taken by Kahlo, but she is often in front of the lens. Serious, composed – engaging with the world around her: one can imagine what it would have been like to be in her staggering presence. NPR’s Daily Picture Show blog has posted 13 of the approximately 6500 photos that Kahlo had in her collection. They were only released to the public in 2007, her husband Diego Rivera had requested that they be kept private.

The voyeur in me is thrilled, like finding a box of photos of my parents and their friends when they were young. These photos reaffirm the mystique, while simultaneously humanizing an art legend.

The Artisphere in Arlington, VA is currently displaying some of these photos.

a Thanksgiving special: images from the Farm Security Administration

While The Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photograph collection

Detroit (vicinity), Michigan. Girls harvesting medicinal(?) plants

has been part of the Library of Congress’s collection since the 1940’s, only recently the black and white negatives were digitized and made available online.

The Farm Security Administration began as a result of the New Deal as part of the Department of Agriculture. In an effort to document the work of the Department’s programs, photographers traveled throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to observe and capture a changing America. The project initially documented cash loans made to individual farmers by the Resettlement Administration and the construction of planned suburban communities. The second stage focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording both rural and urban conditions throughout the United States as well as mobilization efforts for World War II.

Well-researched and trained in documentarian techniques, they were encouraged to photograph everything and anything relevant to their assignment. The byproduct of this effort included jobs for artists and a rich archival record. The photos document everything from farm communities to the development of early suburbs. The collection includes images from photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee, among others.

This collection consists of a bounty of over 100,000 images. Feast your eyes on this slice of American heritage!

Family harvesting milo maize

Back from the Dead: The NYT’s Photo Archive Tumblr

Here at the Visual Resource Center we find ourselves up to our necks in close-to-forgotten images everyday. We are in good company. The Lively Morgue, the New York Times photo archive tumblr, is giving new life to images taken for the paper since 1896. They have over one hundred years of archives to work from, documenting New York City and the world throughout the twentieth century and beyond.

The Lively Morgue

A glimpse into the NYT’s photo editing process

The best part is one click on a photo flips the photo over. You get to see the back of each physical image. Giving you a glimpse into the NYT’s photo selection process and insight into how these images were created and used (or almost used). Each time a photo was considered for publication it was stamped with the date it was pulled from the archive. The photographer’s name and a description of the image are inscribed on the back. Any caption that was published alongside it is pasted on the back as well.  It is fascinating look into the process of photo editing.

They just started posting this February, so we are eager to continue watching yesterday’s news unfold with the Lively Morgue.

A walk on the wild side

Cat pictures are fun and all, but sometimes they leave a bit to be desired.

Dali and his Ocelot

If only Dali’s ocelot was a LOL(wild)cat…

We think we have found what that something is. In honor of the end of the semester and last-minute procrastination we present: Wild Pets! Who cares how easy it is to confuse a cat with a laser pointer when you can see Audrey Hepburn grocery shopping with her pet deer! a snake on a leash! or a toucan taking a bath!

We found the Wild pets photo collection on Retronaut. Organized by decade from the 1800s to WWII there is a collection of (completely decontextualized) images around nearly every theme you can think of.

Warning: this site is enough to keep even the most looming final paper at bay.