Digital Beach Party: Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collections

I started researching this post on April 8th; it was snowing. Twenty days later, we’ve had some warm weather, but the arrival of spring continues to be fairly sluggish, so you can file this installment of Pixels under “I just want to look at summery pictures.” If, like me, you’re also mentally exhausted from another demanding week and feeling that everything is getting just a little “too real,” then you probably want some element of magic and fantasy to your visual getaway.

Warm? Outside of reality? Magical and fantastical? Okay got it.

Los Angeles, California. In the past.

Enter the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collections. Unfortunately there’s no curated browse feature that just lets you look at pictures of California beaches in the 1950’s. And it’s a pretty austere interface considering the content. But the content… the content…


Naturally my first search was “beach,” but that wasn’t quite right, guessing from the first page of results. Here’s result #2 for that search:


“Humphreys Elementary School Auditorium,” David Greenwood, 2011.

Okay so this particular result was lacking not only in the setting, but also the date. Not quite the glamorous 50s beach pictures I had in mind.

(However, if you look at the record for this image, you can see how thorough their cataloging is; one of the subject headings for this image is Radiators California East Los Angeles! You know, if you’re interested in California radiators.)

Searching “Beaches” provided a much better set of results: 191 pages of them!

Clearly we’ll need to delve into this a bit in order to find some escapist beachy images.

Some of the initial results show some more recent images of Venice Beach:


“Venice Boardwalk in November,” Cheryl Himmelstein, L.A. Neighborhoods Project, 2002.


“1972 Dodge Chinook, Rose Avenue Beach Parking Lot,” Cheryl Himmelstein, L.A. Neighborhoods Project, 2002.

See the cats in the window of the van?! Honestly, not related to what I want as such, but holy smokes, you have to look at the subject heading Cats California Los Angeles. The captions might be as amazing as the pictures themselves.


“Cat Wedding,” James Ruebsamen, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 1986.


“Teeny’s Brood’s a Dilly,” Bob Martin, Valley Times, 1963.

I love that cat birth announcements were news in 1963.

I digress… Back to pictures of Venice Beach. On about page 4, I decided it was time for a new search with delimited dates. So I searched “Beaches” with the dates between 1950 and 1960.


“Summer is Here!” Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 1960.

That’s a pretty good start!

Although, to be honest, the rest of the pictures are mostly aerial views, although there are some toward the end that are cool.

Arguably, the site lacks a certain user-friendliness. Linking to searches brings up an “expired session” page, as will opening too many tabs at once. So, I’ll provide a (sad) visual of the searches that produced the best results.


Keyword “Beachgoers” with set dates between 1950-1970: 24 pages of results


Results: things are pretty beachy!

Keyword offensiveness levels: low.


Keyword “Sunbathing”: 9 pages of results


Results: some summery views and some old school glamor

Keyword offensiveness levels: medium.

Bathing Suit

Keyword “Bathing suit”: 15 pages [FIFTEEN] of results

Bathing Suit_results

Results: Jeez. That is so LA.

Keyword offensiveness levels: high. So high. But, hey, if you want mid-century LA at its most glamorous, that’s where it’s at.


“A Century Makes a Difference,” Gordon Dean, Valley Times, 1963.

But still pretty much offensive.


“Acrobats on Santa Monica Beach,” Shades of L.A.: Sri Lankan American Community, ca. 1949.


” Miss Filipino Community of Los Angeles,” Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, 1955.


“Luau Planned by Juniors,” Valley Times, 1956.


” Club Casa del Mar Gymnasts,” A.P. Griffin, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, no date.

Bathing 5

“Dog Show,” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, ca. 1925.

I suppose we can infer from the over-representation of photos dating to the pre-1970s with “Bathing Suit” as a keyword that subject headings and cataloging have certain become more enlightened.

On the whole, this database is just really fun. If you’re looking for something specific, well, it might take a while. Just for fun, I keyword-searched the queen of mid-century glamor herself, Marilyn Monroe, and the first 11 pages of results are just interior and exterior photos of the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice from after it was damaged in an earthquake in the 1990s. Apparently Ms. Monroe’s autopsy was performed there (as was that of her reported paramour, JFK). Out of 24 pages of results, there isn’t a picture of Marilyn until page 14. It’s a little frustrating that the results aren’t sorted by relevance but by date, beginning with the newest. And it’s extra morbid in Marilyn’s case because there are pictures of her crypt and a body bag being wheeled out of her house before there are any pictures of the woman herself. Yeesh. Undated photos or even photos where the last digit of the date is unknown (e.g. 198-?) end up at the bottom of the results list.

Frustrating as the database may be for all of its little quirks, it’s certainly fun to browse and you’ll inevitably learn something new. For example, I searched the name of another glamorous actress, this time from the early history of film, “It”-girl Clara Bow. While there were no pictures of the actress herself, I found out instead about the salacious Wright murder scandal from 1937.



“Paul and Evelyn Wright,” The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 1938.

Here’s what it says under historical notes:

Paul Wright, an aviation company executive, and his friend, John Kimmel, attended a private club meeting on the evening of November 9, 1937. After the meeting they went out for a nightcap at Clara Bow‘s “It Cafe” in Hollywood. It was getting very late so Paul suggested that John accompany him home, ostensibly to provide back-up when his wife Evelyn questioned him about where, and with whom, he had spent the evening. It was after 2 a.m. when they pulled up to Paul’s hilltop home in Glendale. Once inside Paul said he felt fatigued and went to the bedroom for a nap–leaving Evelyn to entertain John. Paul later recalled the events of that night, “I was awakened by some sort of sound–like a piano. It started me out of my sleep. I went to the living room door and saw that the lights were still on. Johnny was sitting at the piano. I could just see his head. He was looking downward. I couldn’t see Evelyn and I wondered where she was.” It didn’t take him long to figure out where his wife was. At that moment everything inside of Paul exploded in what he later described as a “white flame.” He got his gun and shot John and Evelyn to death. Paul was put on trial for the slayings. His attorney, Jerry Giesler, had conceived of a creative defense for his client. He said that Paul’s WWI service (during which he was gassed), a post-war tuberculosis attack, and a voluntary vasectomy combined to make him emotionally unstable–capable of more violent reactions to shock than normal men. At the time of his arrest Paul had confessed to the murders, but when he got to trial his story changed and his memory conveniently began to fail him. How would the jury view his shifting story? The jury of eight men and four women listened to the x-rated testimony and contemplated Giesler’s vasectomy defense. In the end, they found Paul Wright guilty on two counts of manslaughter. But there was a twist–the jury also found that he had been insane at the time of the murders so he was not guilty. When the Lunacy Commission examined Wright they concurred with the jury that Paul Wright was no longer insane. He was freed and would never serve a single day in prison.

That’s a pretty shocking tale. Apparently (according to another photo of the murder scene), Wright had originally said the two were simply “in each other’s arms.” Those Hollywood lawyers and their wild defenses, I tell ya. No real respect for the law! And it’s just as bad today! Also I need to tell those pesky kids to get off my lawn. *Shakes fist and mutters*

Incidentally, Jerry Giesler was also Marilyn Monroe’s divorce attorney when she and Joe DiMaggio split up, and he defended Lana Turner during the Johnny Stompanado murder case. Later, his son was all mixed up in various legal ordeals, including a drunk driving accident that injured Edward G. Robinson Jr. and another that was described in the archive as “he assertedly [sic.] tried to ‘buy’ a cab ride with a .38 caliber revolver.” Those rich kids think they can get away with anything.

Maybe they can today, but not in 1936. Back in those days, folk couldn’t get away with shenanigans like immodesty and immorality. Especially if one happened to be a woman.  Or at the beach.

beach patron

“Beach Patrol Checking Women’s Bathing Suits,” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1936.

The whole “the past was better!” old person act aside, there is something sort of compelling about these old photos. Some of the ones from the 30s are so high-def that you can kind of imagine yourself or your friends in them. The past can often seem hazy and distant, and what is handed down to the present is often just a caricature. We think of the 20s and its tommy guns, gangsters, prohibition, flappers, the Great Gatsby, and martinis. But these pictures sure make it seem like wasn’t really all that different from today.


“Swimmers at the 1928 Pacific Southwest Exposition,” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1928.


“Dog Show,” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1929.

This is basically me every time I get home to my dogs. Minus the finger waves.


“Friends at Ocean Park,” Shades of L.A.: Jewish Community, 1929.


“Women working in Gausti Vineyard, view 11,” 1929.


“Boating at the 1928 Pacific Southwest Exposition,” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1928.

Ah the 20s. If you want to see just how awesome and independent women seem to have been in 1920s LA, I recommend searching “women” with the dates delimited to 1920-1929.

I hope all these fun, sunny California pictures have helped you feel a little warmer. It won’t be long until those dreams of summer are a reality! And maybe if you’re very lucky, those dreams of California will come true too.




Visual Literacy and Infographics

Yay! Spring Break!

It’s finally upon us, that “week off” you’ve all been wishing and begging for is almost here. Maybe you have something exciting planned–a vacation, an adventure, an extended period of wearing nothing but pajamas–or perhaps you’re using this time to get caught up on work. If you’re in the latter category, consider this blog post an entertaining break for your brain. If you’re in the former camp, firstly, you should know that I’m jealous; secondly, consider saving this post for if/when you find yourself living that paradoxical cliché: “I need a vacation from this vacation,” which, I believe, belongs to the “Grass is Always Greener” school of thought.

Visual literacy is hot right now. Hotter than the beach in Florida you’re sunning yourself on? Maybe not; I have no idea what the future temperature of a hypothetical Floridian beach may be. But, believe me when I say it’s a topic with a lot of currency. First of all, what is visual literacy?


If you’re more of a “chunk of text” person,  read more about the ACRL’s (Association of College and Research Libraries) definition of visual literacy below:

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.

 In an interdisciplinary, higher education environment, a visually literate individual is able to:

• Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
• Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
• Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
• Evaluate images and their sources
• Use images and visual media effectively
• Design and create meaningful images and visual media
• Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically

Read more about the ACRL’s visual literacy standards here.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’d like to single out the two of these in bold above, known as Standards three and four, and share a couple of their relevant (for our purposes) “performance indicators.”

Standard Three:

  • identifies information relevant to an image’s meaning.

Standard Four:

  • evaluates the effectiveness and reliability of images as visual communications.
  • evaluates textual information accompanying images.
  • makes judgments about the reliability and accuracy of image sources.

Now that we have the academic lingo down, it’s time to bring on the fun!


For the artsy cartoon nerds out there

That image is at least vaguely on-topic, since this post is going to focus on the intersection of image and text, and specifically, the infographic.

First thing’s first, what is an infographic? Simply put, it’s a visual representation of information, usually in the form of a diagram with minimal accompanying text, that seeks to present often complex content in relatively simple terms. You probably already had a pretty good sense of the definition, since you can hardly load a webpage these days without seeing some infographic or other.

But what many people don’t know is just how hard it actually is to find effective infographics. In our image-saturated society, it’s simply not possible to apply your critical thinking skills to every image you’re confronted with. But infographics aren’t selfies; it goes without saying that you’re not going to take a picture your Facebook friend took of her reflection in the bathroom of a dirty bar seriously. And why would you? There’s a toilet in the background.

No, infographics are special because unlike many other types of images, they present themselves as a visually appealing framework for the clear transmission of authoritative, factual information to the masses. In this sense, infographics have a lot in common with photojournalism: news is supposed to be authoritative and factual, available to the masses, clear and succinct, and full of visual interest. Plus, like infographics, a lot of news media is accompanied by text. But somehow the news and journalism are easier to be wary of: we’re more likely to know or question the ideology of the journalist or news outlet, and they’re more likely to tell us. You don’t often get that with infographics. And this is where our bag of visual literacy tricks comes in handy.

Let’s start with an example:

bad viz1


It looks pretty slick and it’s fairly easy to read the data, so it’s doing a pretty good job, right?

If you look even somewhat closely at this chart you’ll see that there are a lot of problems. And since there are so many, we’ll structure our analysis using the performance indicators of Visual Literacy Standards Three and Four.

  • Identifies information relevant to an image’s meaning.

Let’s start with the most obvious thing, what exactly it is we’re looking at: it’s a chart, specifically a radar chart. It represents the opinions of different socioeconomic groups about the secrets to success. The little legend shows us which colors correspond to which groups. If we look at the top, we see that this is probably from a publication called “Infografika” and it appeared in the first issue. If we look at the bottom, we see the source of the data is the “Obshestvennoe Mnenie Fund” and the name of the illustrator. To speak very briefly about what the data show, it seems “the poor” think that success is based on who you know, and lying and cheating your way to the top. “Rich people” believe hard work is the single greatest determinant for success, while the middle class are evenly split between connections and a good education.

There’s one thing I haven’t mentioned, and that’s the subheading. The first line provides a little information on the methods of the study: people were asked “what’s the secret to success?” Fair enough. Let’s put a pin in the second line for now.

If you look at the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards, each performance indicator has a bunch of “learning outcomes.” Here’s one associated with our current performance indicator:

“Recognizes when more information about an image is needed, develops questions for further research, and conducts additional research as appropriate”

We could start with figuring out what “Infografika” is. And what the “Obshestvennoe Mnenie Fund” is. I’ll tell you right now, though, most of that info is in Russian. The latter *may* refer to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, however, my Russian is little rusty (read: non-existent). Here’s a screencap of the homepage for Infografika, which it turns out is a Russian magazine with nothing but images of infographics in it:


…virtually incomprehensible for the non-Russian speaker

There are definitely other areas where more information is needed: the numbers on the chart, are those… percentages? Because they add up to more than 100; but that might be fine if people were allowed to answer more than one question. They might also be raw numbers of respondents. Honestly, we don’t know. And speaking of the study, what kind was it? A survey? An interview? How many took it? How were respondents solicited? Another question we don’t have answers to are the metrics for the different groups: what counts as “rich people”? “Middle class”? “Poor”? We just don’t know.

  • Evaluates textual information accompanying images.

Most of the text is clear enough, though as we noted earlier, some information is left out. Remember how we put a pin in the second line of the subheading? Let’s return to that now:

bad viz2


Grammatical problems aside, what’s wrong with this statement?

1) It draws a definitive conclusion. There’s no “these findings suggest that…” to soften the statement or make clear any limitations of the study. Without knowing details about the survey, how can we judge if this data is broadly applicable?

2) The statement does not represent a foregone conclusion inherent in the results. If I asked 100 random people which they like more, chocolate or vanilla, and 98% said they liked chocolate best, a statement like “according to this study, more people like chocolate than they do vanilla” is absolutely a foregone conclusion. That 98% is greater than 2% is a fact. But if I said “because chocolate is more delicious than vanilla, it is the flavor of choice,” that would be a sloppy assumption on my part, because I never asked why people like chocolate better: maybe they like the color, or maybe it’s cheaper, or maybe they’re giving away free cars with every chocolate purchase. Furthermore, deliciousness is an opinion, not a fact, so even if everyone did say they thought it was more delicious, it’s my *ethical responsibility* as a researcher to avoid jumping to conclusions and making unfounded assumptions.

Which brings us to: 3) It’s irresponsible and unethical for suggesting that the responses of the “poor” in some way demonstrate a need to change their “life approach.” I’m not totally sure what they even mean, but it certainly seems to be shifting the burden of responsibility for poverty onto the poor themselves and their negative attitudes. This is a chicken-and-egg thing: are the “poor” living in poverty because of their beliefs or are their beliefs caused by living in poverty? Consider this alongside the answers of the “rich”: they believe “hard work” is the secret to success. But really, not all rich people work hard or became rich by working hard. And “hard work” entails what, exactly? Do more rich people work hard than do middle and lower class people? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter: this survey is about opinions. You can believe that hard work was the secret to your success all you want, it won’t necessarily make it true. If this survey shows anything, it’s that rich people believe in the power of the individual as the biggest determining factor for success, while poor people are more cynical in their perception of success as something ill-gotten or reserved for an exclusive group who already have social and financial resources.

  • Evaluates the effectiveness and reliability of images as visual communications.
  • Makes judgments about the reliability and accuracy of image sources.

Is this infographic effective? The data in the chart is pretty easy to read and understand. Overlaying the colors effectively communicates how different the opinions of the three groups are. The layout and design are fairly clean and attractive. So we can at least say that it’s visually appealing and reasonably easy to understand.

But it’s not reliable. Definitely not. We know pretty much nothing about the data and where it came from, the study methods, the research design. Plus then there’s that second line in the subheading. This was features on a list of bad infographics, whose author perfectly summed up its message: “Ugh, poor people.”

So, basically, when it comes to infographics and critical thinking, you might imagine a grid like this:


Is this an infographic about infographics?

Thus, the visually literate student can figure out where a given infographic falls on this spectrum.

The one we’ve already looked at would go here:


Now let’s look at some examples from the other quadrants.

Good Viz

Source: New York Times

In the days after Supreme Court Justice Scalia died, the New York Times tweeted this image. It’s a more concise version of another visualization that I definitely recommend checking out.

Is it effective? It’s easy to read, despite the fact that the information it contains is quite complicated. The colors are easy to see and understand, and the line that corresponds to Scalia’s voting record is visible without hindering our ability to see the surrounding information. The labels are clear and pretty easy to read. This chart was featured on the website, which, with a name like that, hopefully needs very little in the way of introduction. That blog singled out five effective design attributes that this chart possesses: a minimal chart legend, minimal axis labels, use of opacity (emphasizing Justice Scalia’s data), minimal grid lines, and minimal text on the page.

Is it reliable? We know the names and affiliations of the people who made the chart, we know where the data came from (Supreme Court Database), we know how the data points were established (Martin-Quinn scores). I don’t know anything about Martin-Quinn scores so I did a little research. They were developed by two of the professors who made this chart (Martin and Quinn). If you want to know more, read about it here, because I couldn’t reliably summarize it further. Developing sound measures isn’t easy, but they do have replication materials available, which makes it seem pretty scientifically sound. So let’s just say, yes, it’s reliable.



Source: New South Wales Government

The New South Wales Government wants you to know it’s recruiting more nurses! Just look at those stacks of nurses; visually, it’s impressive!


Is it effective? Well it’s pretty easy to understand and it gets the point across–whoa, that’s a lot of nurses! But if you look at the stacks against the numbers, you may quickly realize that it’s not as effective as it initially appears. Four pink people represent between 43,000 and 43,500 nurses; 32 pink people represent approximately 46,500 nurses; and 40 pink people represent 47,500 (or more) nurses. So… a difference of nearly 300 nurses doesn’t warrant another pink person, but a difference of about 3,100 nurses is represented by 28 people?Each of those 28 new pink people must represent about 110 nurses… but, in the first three “bars,” each of the four pink people represent between 10,787 and 10,851 nurses. Wha?

Or, to think about it another way, a 700% increase in pink people between 2010/11 and 2011/12 is used to show a 7% increase in the number of nurses. So, it’s visually misleading and therefore really not very effective.

Is it reliable? The data are correct; New South Wales did in fact increase the number of nurses over this period of time. The numbers, at least, are reliable.


Source: Fox News; Retrieved via Google

Where to even start?

Is it effective? No. Just no. First of all, it’s really ugly. Look at the wheels and cogs in the background: what does this have to do with welfare and full time jobs? In addition to a lack of visual appeal, it’s making the same mistake the last graph made: The numerical difference between the bars is 6.9 million, an increase of slightly less than 7%, yet the size of the bar basically quadruples. Plus the y axis is unlabeled, making it basically useless.

Is it reliable? Oh definitely no. No, no, no. To begin, while “people on welfare” seems like it would designate a really obvious group, the Census Bureau doesn’t use the word “welfare” to describe government assistance programs; the term is “means-tested programs,” which includes things like public or subsidized housing, “food stamps,” and  Medicaid, among others. These programs are separate from things like social security and veteran’s compensation, though, someone *could* make the argument that these are “welfare” programs too, since the recipients are getting assistance from the government. So which programs is Fox talking about? We don’t know.

Well, actually, I do. I did some digging and found what they are referring to. The data come from the results of the Survey of Income and Program Participation from 2011, and specifically Table 2: People by Receipt of Benefits from Selected Programs: Monthly Averages, 4th Quarter. Just to make it easier, here it is below. The highlights are my own.

Census 1

Source: United States Census Bureau

So, there it is. 108,592 people who received benefits from a means-tested program; wow, that’s 35.4% of the population! Oh wait… that also includes anyone living in a household in which one or more people received such benefits. So, not every single person in that group is personally receiving such benefits.

Now let’s look at Table 4: Households by Number of Means-Tested Noncash Programs in Which Members Participate: Monthly Averages from the same period:

Census 2

Source: United States Census Bureau

You’ll see that when considered by household, 27.2% of households receive benefits, which is a fairly significant decrease from 35.4%.

As to the second data point, honestly, I looked through a bunch of stuff on the Census website and simply couldn’t find any data about employment from 2011. So I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, which is frankly the best place to get data about employment, anyway. The site has relevant information about employment in 2011 , and we’ll start by looking at data from Table 8: Employed and unemployed full- and part-time workers by age, sex, race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (2011):

Labor Stats 1.png

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

So, as you can see, there were 112,556,000 people 16 years of age and older who were employed full time, not 101.7 million, as Fox stated. But, why are we only limiting it to full-time employees anyways? Part time workers are workers too. In any case, you get a fuller picture by also looking at the data from Table 3: Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race (2011).

Labor Stats 2

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2011, approximately 140 million people had jobs, either full or part time. That’s only 58.4% of the population 16 and over; that’s it?!?! *cue outrage over how few people work* But wait, conversely there were only 13.8 million people who were unemployed, roughly 6% of the civilian non-institutional population. It makes sense that people who are 16-24 and over 65 aren’t employed at exceptionally high rates. I singled out the 25-54 age range and look, 75.1% of that group are employed! It’s not as bleak a picture as Fox would have you believe; and no matter where I looked, I couldn’t come up with their 101.7 million figure.

In conclusion: not reliable.

Which leaves us with a distribution of infographics that looks like this:

effective_reliable 2

Phew, that was a lot of work. I was a much younger woman when I started writing this blog post. But that’s the point: being visually literate requires you to not only look at images and visual information critically, but then to employ strong research skills to figure out just how effective and/or reliable what you’re looking at really is. This naturally leads into issues of information literacy, and one’s ability to judge the authority and reliability of a source.

These skills also come in handy when you’re making infographics. Creating effective infographics requires a number of diverse skills; that’s why there are design firms that uniquely dedicated to creating infographics for clients. If you’re looking for tips on how to make infographics, I recommend looking at blogmaster Randy Krum’s book by the same name, of which the UIUC Library has both a physical and digital copy.

As you enjoy what’s left of your spring break, stay safe out there, folks: don’t let bad infographics happen to good people.

WDL, DPLA, APIs and YOU: Doing Stuff with Digital Collections

The space where the digital and the library intersect is fraught with acronyms [though if you want to get technical–and I KNOW you do–mostly initialisms], and, OMG, so is this blog post. But have no fear, we’ll get through this together.

Recently, the LOC (that’s the Library of Congress) published on their digital preservation blog, The Signal, a post about digital collections and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). In addition to providing an overview of APIs, the post features an interview with Chris Adams, LOC IT specialist and the BAMF behind WDL‘s API.

What’s an API?

Before you get all LOLWUT, let’s start at the beginning; the definition of an API. An API is a set of protocols for building applications within a specific system, such as an operating system, database, or the web. In the context of digital collections, the API provided by the hosting collection allows individuals to create their own web-based programs that interact in different ways with the content of the collections.

World Digital Library, or WDL, is a LOC-based project supported by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization) that provides open, multilingual access to significant primary materials from around the world.


WDL Homepage as of 1/29/2016

You can find information about the WDL’s API here. While “back in the day,” institutions needed to develop their own APIs, standardized APIs such as OpenSearch make it much easier for smaller or cash-strapped cultural institutions to make their digital collections widely available. WDL has put its weight behind IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework), an initiative dedicated to producing “an interoperable technology and community framework for image delivery” (read more here) that would allow users richer, more uniform access to digital image collections.

What can APIs do?

To see some of the things IIIF APIs have done, take a look at the showcase; we’re going to take a closer look at Mirador and OpenSeadragon.

Mirador is an “Open-source, web based, multi-window image viewing platform with the ability to zoom, display, compare and annotate images from around the world.” Check out the Mirador Demo and give it a try! The LOC blog post has a walkthrough for how to play around with Mirador using WDL’s collections.

Mirador Walkthrough

You’re not limited to using the images suggested above. Head to the WDL homepage and search for whatever your heart desires. Narrow your search to photographs by clicking on “Prints, Photographs” under “Type of Item” in the left sidebar.

dogs search

I searched for “dogs” and then “animals” (because “cats” yielded nothing; I guess WDL’s contributing institutions are dog people). Here is what my Mirador Viewer looked like.

OpenSeadragon is “an open-source, web-based viewer for high-resolution zoomable images” that is already being used by numerous institutions of diverse scope. Here are some projects using OpenSeadragon that are definitely worth checking out:

Is it really obvious that I have a thing for companion animals?


Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Hamlet (cat)” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 3, 2016.

(But seriously, I love that this was part of the Billy Rose Theatre photograph collection. Further, it should be noted that Hamlet the Cat is one of over 30,ooo personalities NYPL [New York Public Library] has identified in that collection of photographs.)

Enough with the cats! What are other institutions doing with APIs?

The DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) is, like WDL, a digital library whose content is aggregated from the digital collections of contributing American cultural institutions. They also have made their API available, but the DPLA is exceptional for the support they throw behind developers/researchers/institutions/regular people who want to use it, including tutorials, sample code, project idea sharing, and a glossary, to give but a few example. Their App Library demonstrates some of the projects that have been made using the DPLA API. Some cool ones:

Moar API links pls.

You got it.

Here are a few noteworthy digital collections and links to their APIs

Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is the main branch of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia. The Powerhouse is a old name in the publicly-available museum API game; v.1 of their API was released in 2010 (this article documents a hackathon in which several cool projects used the newly-released API)

Check out the Powerhouse Museum API here.

New York Public Library

IMO, NYPL is, has always been, and will always be on the cutting edge of everything “library.” Is this an exaggeration? Maybe. But only a little. On January 5th, 2016, they announced that out-of-copyright materials in the NYPL digital collections are now available as a simple download, no permissions required.

This is huge generally, but it also affects the NYPL API, “enabling bulk use and analysis, as well as data exports and utilities posted to NYPL’s GitHub account.”

Check out NYPL Labs to see some of the cool projects that have used NYPL’s API and to see proof that my introductory sentence about NYPL is correct.

Europeana Collections

Europeana Collections is a portal for searching digital collections about European history and culture from contributing institutions across Europe. Though still in beta, the multimedia collections are diverse and robust. Europeana Labs is the forward-thinking, digital “brain trust” behind the site, and it offers an array of resources for helping developers create “resources for using and building with cultural collections.” Their website has links to the APIs, and an apps showcase, demonstrating very cool projects that make use of these resources.

Many Others

There’s definitely not enough room here for me to link every cultural institution’s API, but you can search for them yourself with ProgrammableWeb’s API Directory. You can search by category, protocol, or by typing in the search bar on the upper right. The “museum” category has a lot of really great results, for example.

While this post has been just a very broad overview of APIs and the things you can do with them, if you’re interested in learning more about APIs and how to use them, you can always check out API University, which has links to free information on best practices, tutorials, tips and tricks for both users and providers.

TL;DR: APIs are super useful for facilitating and bolstering access to digital collections.

TYVM and I’ll TTYL.

Explore Chicago Collections

It’s definitely normal for people living in the Midwest to be interested in Chicago: the night life, restaurants, architecture, shopping, culture, sports, the list could go on and on. At the very least, living in Illinois necessitates the occasional (sometimes aggravating) trip to the windy city’s airports. Surely, even the most anti-big-city-living amongst us can appreciate the majestic views of Chicago facilitated by the airplane window. And surely no one could deny Chicago’s storied history: Fort Dearborn, Al Capone, the Chicago Fire, the 1893 World’s Fair, “Merkle’s Boner,” the Haymarket Riot, to name but a few examples, are not simply compelling for their local historical importance, they are significant to the history of the nation as a whole.

If you happen to be interested in this history (or if you’re interested in digital collections, libraries and archives, because the interface is as user-friendly as they come), then you definitely need to check out Explore Chicago Collections, a single, digital portal for exploring the myriad archives scattered across the Windy City. Readers of this blog will be particularly interested in the digital image results that accompany each search.

A clear interface is *definitely* a thing of beauty

A clear interface is definitely a thing of beauty

As you can see from the above image, you can search for archives across a number of topics relating to significant events and daily life in Chicago throughout history. You can also browse the archival collections by names, cities, and neighborhoods, depending on your interests. Or take advantage of that gigantic search bar and type in whatever keyword you wish. If you’re looking up something specific, this could be the better approach; check out the difference when I type “Al Capone” into the search bar versus when I select “Al Capone, 1899-1947” from the list of provided names.

I’ll bet you didn’t know investigators reenacted the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre *this* thoroughly

As an aside, did you know about this? Dramatic stuff.

Another piece of history with some serious currency is the 1893 World’s Fair, aka the World’s Columbian Exposition. Many people have read (or at least heard of) The New York Times Bestseller The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, a nonfiction crime novel set against the backdrop of the Fair and centered around its architect, Daniel H. Burnham and noted serial killer H.H. Holmes. And if you haven’t, you will; Leonardo DiCaprio bought the film rights in 2010, and Martin Scorsese is confirmed to direct.

But I digress. The World’s Fair appears among the events one can browse (not to be confused with the 1933 World’s Fair, which also appears), and there are an impressive number of digital images and archival sources related to it. The filter in the side bar can delimit your search by a number of parameters like type, location of the material, topics, and neighborhood.

Of course, if you’re only interested in images, they conveniently appear at the top of the results, and one can browse all of them by clicking the “See All” button on the right side of the “Digital Images” subheader.


The digital images represent a variety of media, including photos, drawings, and correspondence, and you can click on the image for (often) extensive metadata, most importantly, the library or archive where they are located.

This is definitely a very cool website, especially when you take a look at the long list of institutions that are Explore Chicago Collections member organizations. For any Chicago-related research, this portal is the ideal starting point, especially if you’re not sure which archives might have relevant information to your search. Many of the images are fragile and can only be used by researchers in their digital format, making it easier to track down a wealth of visual information through a single site.

I’ll leave you with a final recommendation: if you’re interested in learning about less well-known dramatic moments in Chicago history, check out the “Disasters” gallery. It runs the gamut from the macabre to tales of heroism, and some very interesting photographs.

Or if that’s not your thing, have a look through the Lincoln Park Zoo gallery.

Database of Scientific Illustrators (1450-1950)

The Database of Scientific Illustrators (1450-1950) is a project created by Section for History of Science and Technology at the History Department at the University of Stuttgart. Professor Klaus Hentschel noticed a dearth of information about those who specialized as science illustrators, and so this database, meant to function as a sort of dictionary of scientific illustrators was created. The collection is an effort to fill the gaps of information about prominent scientific illustrators, notably draughtsmen and women, photographers, and others who specialize in the visual representation of scientific objects and processes.

Sample of DSI database entry for German illustrator Fritz Adolphy.
Sample of DSI database entry for German illustrator Fritz Adolphy.

The database is designed as an interactive website, allowing users to update and add useful information about scientific illustrators as the information arises. It currently focuses on the years spanning (1450-1950). This time frame allows people to access information on more relatively-unknown medieval illustrators, and excludes contemporary illustrators.

By Sir Richard Owen, lithograph by E.C. Woodward, 1884. Wellcome Library, London.

By browsing the archive, one does indeed find dictionary-like entries of illustrators, with pertinent information provided such as their patronage, collaborators, and main methods of working. The site also features links to samples of their work, and archival sources.  To obtain the image above, for example, I had to copy and paste the link provided in E.C. Woodward’s entry, otherwise, no visual of this work is provided. With this in mind, be aware–this is not an image based archive. It seems that this site is best navigated with an illustrator, time period, region, or medium in mind, as it’s hard to differentiate between the long list of names that comprises this archive.

The advanced search, however, is incredibly well designed, allowing you to search by every category of information available on the site. For example, if you’re searching for primarily engravers working in Germany in the 1800s, the database will return roughly 66 illustrators.

The archive was created in 2011, and covers over 10,100 illustrators active in natural history, medicine, technology, and various other sciences. The archive also collects illustrators from over 80 countries, creating an archive that has a global and temporal span. This is obviously a growing archive, so I would highly encourage contributing to this compendium if your research allows it!

The Wellcome Collection: A Pharmaceutical Archive That Takes Us Far From Modern Medicine

To put it bluntly, the Wellcome Collection is the archive you never knew you needed. Advertised as, “The destination for the incurably curious,” the Wellcome Collection is an archive located in London, but also completely digitally accessible. The Wellcome Collection is vast, but generally they claim to focus on connections between “medicine, life, and art, in the past, present, and future.” Some, like myself, might say that’s hardly a focus, but in this case, the wide range of material archived here is what really makes it a stunning collection.

A mesmerist using animal magnetism on a woman who responds with convulsions. Wood engraving, 1845.

A mesmerist using animal magnetism on a woman who responds with convulsions. Wood engraving, 1845.


The Wellcome Collection is the personal collection of Sir Henry Wellcome, a gentleman with an interest in both marketing and medicine. In 1880, he and his friend Silas Burroughs set up a pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome & Co. Collecting over a million objects, Wellcome’s goal was to open a space to both house his collections for professionals to learn about the development of medicine and medicinal science.

The online collection features several archives including, Archives and Manuscripts, the History of Medicine Collection, and a Medical Collection. These larger groupings are organized by guides such as Alcohol and Drugs, Anatomy and physiology, and Animals, to name a few. There are also collections on development of birth control, eugenics, heredity and genetics, and treatment and therapy. While it appears that all of the information is meticulously sorted with excellent metadata, be aware that not all the content is yet digitized. To get straight to the digitized content, click here.

The website also features two curated ‘digital stories‘ that function as online exhibitions. The first one, “Mindcraft, a century of madness, murder, and mental healing,” takes you through a darkly fascinating history of alternative healing. The second, “The Collectors,” looks at the history of collecting the names of those who died in the 17th century. They’re visually engaging, darkly fascinating, and provide excellent history lessons to undergraduate students.

This is truly an interdisciplinary archive, perfect for anyone studying the history of medicine, pseudosciences, gender and women studies, art history, or, if you have a genuine penchant for the weird, the Wellcome Collection will be your new favorite archive for primary sources (and mine too!).

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: The Robert Olshansky Collection

Ten years ago, on August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made its landfall as a Category 3 hurricane in southeastern Louisiana. The aftermath saw far-reaching consequences beyond the mass destruction caused by the hurricane–$108 billion dollars in property damage and over 1000 deaths. Issues surrounding governmental responsibility, race, class, and disaster response preparedness (or lack thereof) were hotly discussed in the national media, as those affected by the storm attempted to rebuild their lives in the weeks, months and even years following the disaster.

View of Destruction, Post Hurricane Katrina, Robert Olshansky 2005.

Throughout the aftermath, Dr. Robert Olshansky, Professor and Head of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, meticulously recorded the long-term recovery of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Olshansky, whose research focuses on post-disaster recovery planning, has chronicled such efforts in many areas affected by severe natural disasters. His photos are available through one of UIUC’s institutional collections in the ARTstor digital library, “Urban and Regional Planning from the Robert Olshansky Collection.” The collection of over 2000 images features numerous photographs of aftermath and recovery in cities around the world, including the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China; the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; and the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in northern Japan.

“Dog Rescued” on Garage Door, Post Hurricane Katrina, Robert Olshansky, 2005.

Interior of House, Post Hurricane Katrina, Robert Olshansky, 2005

The collection is made up of diverse shots: close ups, aerial views, as well as digital and physical reconstruction plans. Dr. Olshansky’s close up photos offer an intimate view of diverse cultures visually united in a common struggle to rebuild in the wake of disastrous natural phenomena. The photos are as raw as the scenes they depict; they are unedited, unretouched, photojournalistic accounts of loss on a very human scale. The immediacy of Olshanky’s close ups conveys an immersive, sensory experience of the chaos, as though you could walk into the scene and stand among the dilapidated buildings and twisted debris.


Man Watching Approaching Car, Post Earthquake Haiti, Robert Olshansky, 2010

Interior of a Destroyed Laundry Mat following the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Robert Olshansky, 2011

The aerial views offer another perspective altogether. The cities stand in much the same way as before disaster struck, a testament to the triumph of architecture, engineering, and urban planning.

Osaka, Gifu-ken, Chūbu, Japan from Afar, Post Chūetsu Earthquake, Robert Olshansky, 2004-2005.

Aerial View of New Orleans, Two Years after Hurricane Katrina, Robert Olshansky, 2007

Aerial View of New Orleans, Two Years after Hurricane Katrina, Robert Olshansky, 2007

If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Olshansky’s work, check out the collection on Artstor. You can also learn more about Hurricane Katrina and the future of disaster preparedness by reading Dr. Olshansky’s co-authored book Clear as Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans, and be sure to listen to his recent interview with Scott Beatty for the News-Gazette.

Archigram Archival Project: Your Gateway to the Future of the Past!

I often wonder what a ‘complete’ archive of a body of work, institution, or style would look like. This ideal completeness is unattainable, as so many items that would be included in an archive are often lost, sold to different institutions, or in their contemporary moment, regarded as unimportant and thrown away. One such project attempting to recuperate the distance that often separates elements of an archive is The Archigram Archival Project (AAP).

Members of Archigram: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb.

Members of Archigram: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb.

For those of you not already familiar with the seminal architectural group Archigram, here’s a quick bio:

Archigram was an avant-garde architectural group formed during the 1960s in London. Their work was largely unbuilt and hyopthetical, taking its cues largely from the neo-futurist movement of the late 20th and early 21st century. ‘Plug-in-City,’ designed by Peter Cook in 1964 was not a building, rather it was a mega-structure in which cell-like or module dwellings could be slated into. In 1964, Ron Herron proposed an alternate city, ‘The Walking City,’ which was comprised of moving buildings (essentially buildings that were robots) which contained space for people to live-within while the buildings roamed the city. Sounds weird, but awesome right? That’s why this archive is is fascinating!

Walking City: Proposal for a nomadic city infrastructure in which urban utilities would not be tied to a specific location. Originally called Cities:Moving, 1964.

Walking City: Proposal for a nomadic city infrastructure in which urban utilities would not be tied to a specific location. Originally called Cities:Moving, 1964.

Archigram focused their efforts on understanding the relationship between space, technology, and architecture, relationships that in the 21st century we are still trying to understand and negotiate as different forms to technology become engrained in everyday life. Archigram was interested in both temporary and permanent structures to facilitate and mimic modern life, and while largely hypothetical, has had lasting impacts on contemporary architects.

Plug-In City Article, Sunday Times Color Supplement Article written by Priscilla Chapman on Plug-In City, published in The Sunday Times colour supplement magazine, 20th September, 1964

Plug-In City Article, Sunday Times Color Supplement Article written by Priscilla Chapman on Plug-In City, published in The Sunday Times colour supplement magazine, 20th September, 1964

The Archigram Archival Project is a digital-based resource that displays images of works that are held throughout many different collections, creating a digital place for all of their work and projects to co-exist with one another. In some ways, this digital resource of all of their projects sort of mirrors one of their city planning designs doesn’t it? Instead of you searching for the projects, the project resources move to you!

Dream City Project, 1963: Speculative proposal for ‘city’ suspended on tension system: expanding to cover the earth or as Zeppelin war machine. Shown in Living City exhibition.

Dream City Project, 1963: Speculative proposal for ‘city’ suspended on tension system: expanding to cover the earth or as Zeppelin war machine. Shown in Living City exhibition.

The AAP primarily centers on Archigram’s work between 1961-1974, but contains information regarding projects before and after these dates. Unfortunately, the primary gap in this resource is the absence of film and AV material due to copyright issues. The 10,000+ collection was created largely in thanks to a £304,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and a team from the University of Westminster.

Looking through these projects, its almost uncanny how much some these mirror the our communication patterns in the 21st century. This is a great resource not only for understanding 20th century avant-garde architecture, but also finding inspiration for that sci-fi novel you’ll one day write!

The Perfect Spring Fling: A visual stroll through the Ukiyo-e Japanese Woodblock Archive

In celebration of Spring and the lovely cherry blossom trees that seem to be blooming all over town, it seems like the perfect time to share this lush archive of Japanese woodblock prints from the digital archive, Ukiyo-e.

The archive spans three centuries of traditional and contemporary Japanese woodblock prints, organized by time period, artist, and institution. The database is easy to navigate due to large thumbnail images of each print.

By Asano Takeji, 1940

Dorokyo Gorge, by Asano Takeji (1940)

The Ukiyo-e archive maintains a database of over 213,000 prints from 24 different institutions. In addition to this, the site also features an image similarity analysis engine which compares prints of similar content and style. This engine recommends similar or different versions of a print that you might also be interested in. When looking through the archive, if an image has any corresponding similar prints, they show up as recommendations (see screen shot below):

In this window, you can see that the site features a very simple design that clearly labels the artist, date, and collection, and also gives you a selection of similar images. By hitting the "Compare Prints" button, on the lower right hand side of the screen, a specialty image viewer pops up that allows you do a side-by-side comparison of two images.

In this window, you can see that the site features a very simple design that clearly labels the artist, date, and collection, and also gives you a selection of similar images. By hitting the “Compare Prints” button, on the lower right hand side of the screen, a specialty image viewer pops up that allows you do a side-by-side comparison of two images.

The database highlights their depths of metadata, which has been aggregated from various museums, libraries, auction houses, and dealers. Furthermore, the database is searchable by both text and image, making searching for a specific print comparison incredibly easy! Finally, the entire database is available in both Japanese and English, an important detail that contributes to bridging a gap in the scholarship of Japanese Woodblock prints.

When performing a general search, the database is divided chronologically, making categorical separations roughly ever 30 years between Early Ukiyo-e (Early-Mid 1700s), and  Modern and Contemporary prints (1950s to Now). This separation clearly shows the difference and shift in style, subject matter, and technological possibilities. If you can’t be outside in nature this week, take some time to explore these vibrant Japanese woodblock prints!

Mallet of Daikoku, One of the Gods of Good Fortune, and a Rat, 1828 by Yashima Gakutei

Mallet of Daikoku, One of the Gods of Good Fortune, and a Rat, 1828 by Yashima Gakutei




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.



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!

Fair Use Anxiety

The College Art Association has just released a new report titled “Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities: an Issues Study.” This report is phase one of a four phase project originally motivated by “concerns about how the actual and perceived limitations of copyright can inhibit the creation and publication of new work in visual arts communities.” The ultimate goal of this project is to develop and disseminate a Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Creation and Curation of Artworks and Scholarly Publishing in the Visual Arts.

While Colleen Flaherty provides an  excellent summary of the report for Inside Higher Ed, the more ambitious may choose to read the full report.

The Visual Resources Association published a statement on the fair use of images for teaching, research, and study in late 2011 which was endorsed by the College Art Association. For additional readings, Christine Sundt has aggregated numerous readings and codes of best practices in relation to fair use here.

Boudewijn de Groot

Boudewijn de Groot, probably thinking about fair use

New collections available in ARTstor

If you’re a frequent user of the ARTstor Digital Library, you might have noticed a few new institutional collections become available – specifically Landscape Architecture from the Bob Riley Collection and Modern and Contemporary Art from the Jonathan Fineberg Collection. 

Robert B. Riley graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in philosophy, and subsequently went on to study under Mies van der Rohe at MIT where he received his Bachelor of Architecture. After a decade of private practice, he entered Imageacademia, teaching at the University of New Mexico, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Melbourne, and Harvard University. He has served as chair of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Environmental Design Research Association, and the Board of Senior Research Fellows at Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University. He has been associate editor of Landscape and editor of Landscape Journal.

The images from his collection are drawn from his extensive collection amassed over fifty years of teaching and travel. While some are pulled from secondary sources, many are original to Professor Riley. The strength of this collection is its breadth and diversity, including the last three decades of professional landscape design from around the world, townscapes and landscapes from Hangzhou to St. Petersburg, classic European and Asian gardens, aerial views of settlement patterns and landscapes, and the popular and vernacular landscapes of North America.

ImageModern and Contemporary Art from the Jonathan Fineberg collection contains approximately 1,500 images of post World War Two art. Fineberg amassed a large personal collection of slides, predominantly in European and American art since 1850 but also including a broad range of other interests including child art, African art, architecture and pre 1850 European art. The University Library made a small selection for ARTstor consisting of original slides taken in certain artists’ studios and on several of the major temporary projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Jonathan Fineberg is Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor of Art History Emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana and Trustee Emeritus at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. where he was founding director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art. He received his B.A. (1967) and Ph.D. (1975) from Harvard University and an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of Art (1969) and studied psychoanalysis at the Boston and Western New England Psychoanalytic Institutes (1970-75, 1979-81). He received the College Art Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in the History of Art in 2001. He created the 2 hour PBS documentary Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art (with John Carlin) and his major books include: Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being (Prentice-Hall 2010), The Innocent Eye: Children’s Art and the Modern Artist (Princeton 1997), Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On the Way to the Gates (Yale and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art (with John Carlin, Yale 2005), When We Were Young: New Perspectives on the Art of the Child (University of California Press, 2006); Alice Aycock: Drawings, Some Stories Are Worth Repeating (Yale, 2013); and A TroubIesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson (University of California Press, 2013). Forthcoming in 2014: Disquieting Memories: The Art of Zhang Xiaogang (Phaidon) and The Language of the Enigmatic Object: Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain – The Nebraska Presidential Lectures (University of Nebraska Press).

While these wonderful collections represent only a portion of the work and achievements of these two University of Illinois scholars, the contents are sure to be invaluable to researchers.

Welcome Home, Illini / the Noun Project

As we start the Fall semester, the Pixels team would first like to welcome incoming freshman as well as returning students and faculty. This semester promises to be an exciting one, kicking off with events such as Ellnora at the Krannert Center and new campus initiative such as the Center for a Sustainable Environment and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. In addition, the University Library has been strengthening its services with more subject resources guides and instructional workshops (oh look, a guide to Ellnora!).


“Images” designed by Khanh Linh from The Noun Project

Campus happenings aside, there is a lot to be excited about in the digital collections realm as well. One such thing is The Noun Project, an online library consisting of symbols and representational icons. As described on its website, “The Noun Project is building a global visual language that everyone can understand. We want to enable our users to visually communicate anything to anyone.”

Users can search for various things (images, or tree) or concepScreen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.51.48 AMts (running late, waking up) and then either download or purchase. Symbols uploaded to The Noun Project by various designers are licensed under Creative Commons licenses, allowing designers creative rights to own and share their own work while also promoting global collaboration in the creation of a common language. Read more about using symbols from The Noun Project here.

Recently The Noun Project hosted an “iconathon” with the Metropolitan New York  Library Council (METRO) to develop design cultural heritage symbols intended for use in institutions like libraries, archives and museums. More information about this, as well as a sampling of some of the symbols that were developed during the workshop, can be found here. These symbols are available to use under a Creative Commons public domain license.

If you’re not as excited about a symbol for digital preservation as I am, browse by collection or category to find your favorite.

ARTstor & Java Update

ARTstor is pleased to announce an update that will eliminate the need for Java in the ARTstor Digital Library. In the near future, single image downloads will be delivered in zip files.

ARTstor has been using Java for downloads of individual images, but recently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began recommending that Java be disabled due to security concerns. After our update, users who download single image files will receive a zip file that contains a JPEG image and an HTML file with the associated metadata. In addition to removing the need for Java, using zip will allow ARTstor to pursue other feature enhancements, such as additional options for image group downloads.

For some users, mainly those on PCs, it will be necessary to install software such as 7Zip to unzip their downloads. ARTstor will be providing updated help documentation.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact ARTStor’s User Services team at

Painting Show @Figure One Gallery, February 22nd 2013

Normally at pixels we like to post information related to digital content, but we’re making an exception to highlight the show of a very talented former VRC graduate assistant  who’s work you’ll be able to go see in real life! 

The MFA students here at the U of I produce amazingly creative bodies of work, and Dan is no exception. Dan received his BFA in painting from Indiana University Bloomington and is currently an MFA candidate (expected 2013) at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His new body of work will be shown at Figure One in Champaign IL, with the closing reception this Friday, February 22nd,  from 6-9pm.



Dan Gratz: Holoscapes/Moving Mountains



Oil on Canvas

Figure One Gallery

116 North Walnut

Champaign, Illinois 61820


Wed: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Thu – Sat: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

Friday, February 22, 2013. 6:00pm until 9:00pm. (Closing Reception)


Exhibition runs February 13 – March 01, 2013

Reception: Friday, February 22, 2013 6-9PM

trial access to Material ConneXion database until February 16th

Are you trying to invent the next big thing, but struggling to find a material that’s fire

"Crazy Lace" Applications include packaging, and interior wall coverings in retail, hospitality and commercial spaces

“Crazy Lace” Applications include packaging, and interior wall coverings in retail, hospitality and commercial spaces

resistant, biodegradable, and translucent? By searching the Material Connexion database, you’re sure to find something that meets your needs.

To access the trial database, click on this link.

Material ConneXion self-describes as “the world’s largest resource of new materials.” The Library houses over 7,000 advanced, sustainable and innovative materials representing eight categories: polymers, naturals, metals, glass, ceramics, carbon-based materials, cement-based materials, and processes.  It features truly cutting-edge materials and applications, including the world’s only collection of Cradle to Cradle sustainable materials.  Material ConneXion researches materials for all design disciplines: aerospace design; architecture; art; automobile design;  fashion design; graphic design; industrial design; interior design; landscape architecture; package design; product design; textiles; etc. While Material ConneXion has offices all over the world, the closes to Champaign-Urbana is in New York City. Fortunately, their online database provides material aficionados and researchers invaluable information from anywhere in the world.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library is currently offering its users a trial subscription, ending February 16th, 2013. While we hope to subscribe to this fantastic resource in the future, we need to first generate enough interest. Please tell us what you think.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 12.22.44 PMUsers can search for materials by keyword or MC# (if known), or can filter materials by properties such as sustainability, physical properties, and processing in the advanced search area. The search results provide images of the materials along with detailed material descriptions, usage characteristics, and manufacturer and distributor contact information, all written and compiled by the Material ConneXion staff of material specialists.

To learn more about the study of materials, enjoy the videos at the links below!

A library of new materials

Future Tech – Material ConneXion

Material (in a Digital) World

Rocco from MateriaWhile a completely tactile web might still be a long ways off, materials are finding a new home in digital interfaces. As learning, shopping, and other interactions are increasingly encountered through screens, how does the design, architecture or fine arts student encounter materials?

One answer is Materia. It is a freely-accessible, online material explorer. Anyone can scroll through emerging and green materials or use a faceted material, sensorial or property search. This Netherlands-based site makes it a little bit easier for students and practicing professionals to imagine the tactile-effect of raw building materials.

For something beyond a faceted online search, Material ConneXion might be of interest. They are an international group providing in person experience with sustainable and cutting edge building materials and textiles as well as a subscription-based database. While they have a US-based materials library in New York, they also have a service for academic institutions to lease or buy a curated selection of items to have on-site. The cost and rate of innovation of new materials is high, having an expert’s insight into what is worthwhile is invaluable. Check out the video over at ArchDaily for a whirlwind tour!

Discovering art on is an online art repository whose mission is “to make all the world’s art freely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection”. works with galleries and art institutions to collect art across many different movements and genres, and then users can peruse the collection.  This resource is compared to Internet radio Pandora, Pinterest, or Netflix in its ability to browse the content on The site was launched on October 8th, 2012, and has over 17,000 artworks posted so far.

Art meets technology through the Art Genome Project, an organization that codes the characteristics of an artwork and creates relationships between different pieces to make searching for similar art a possibility. Users can manipulate the search filter to bring up results based on the medium. color, or size of the piece. Users may not download any of the images. is a good place for art appreciators to discover new art. For more information on how is mapping art on the web, check out this article by The New York Times.

ARTtube: videos about art and design

Welcome back to the start of a new semester. We hope you’ve all had fun and relaxing summers, and are ready to start the year fresh.

To ease you into your scholarly pursuits, we present you with ARTtube. Like Youtube, ARTtube is a collection of short videos that you may find fun and addicting. Unlike Youtube, however, the videos are strictly related to art and design, and are educational in nature (sorry, no keyboard cats here).

For ARTtube, five Dutch museums (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam,Gemeentemuseum, The Hague,Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, M HKA, and De Pont)  have partnered to create videos that contain interviews with leading artists, designers, and curators, sneak peaks into exhibitions, and an inside look into art restoration. The videos posted to the site are a great way to learn about the museums and their collections. To learn more about ARTtube, click here.

Europeana on Pininterest

Europeana on PininterestIf we’ve got you hooked on Europeana Exhibitions, you might also want to check out the visually striking collections that have resulted from Pinterest collaborations with Europeana partners. According to the June 2012 Europeana Newsletter,  Europeana has recently  teamed up with five leading European galleries, libraries, archives and museums to curate Pinterest boards using content available through Europeana. “Together with the Biblioteca de Catalunya, Varna Public Library, the Swedish National Heritage Board, The Swedish Royal Armoury and the University of Barcelona, Europeana has explored diverse themes that range from posters from the Spanish Civil War and picturesque postcards of the Black Sea, to stunning illustrations from primatologist Jordi Sabater Pi.”

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.

Historic Detroit

While I’ve never visited Detroit, browsing through the 180 galleries of buildings and monuments on Historic Detroit makes it seem as familiar to me as my own hometown.

The Alexander Macomb Monument is unveiled in 1908. Photo from the Burton Historical Collection.


Founded in June 2011 by Dan Austin, author of “Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins” and former writer, photographer, researcher and webmaster behind the Detroit history site, Historic Detroit serves as a collaborative platform for users to share images and memories of Detroit’s architecture.

Visitors to the site can either search or browse through by place, or sort their results by architect. All contributors to the site maintain full rights on their submissions.

Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece

If you liked Google’s Art Project but found yourself disappointed that it didn’t include the Ghent Altarpiece, you may have a psychic connection with the Getty Foundation. Like the Art Project, “Closer to Van Eyck…” offers users extreme close up views of the work. The website presents the results from “Lasting Support,” an interdisciplinary research project aiming to assess the structural condition of the Ghent Altarpiece. In addition to high resolution images, users may also view the surface beneath the paint via infrared reflectography (IRR) and x-radiography. Read more about project Lasting Support here.

T. Enami and Japanese photography in the Meiji / Taisho Era

T. Enami. The Tea Pickers. ca. 1905-1920

While cleaning out the Visual Resources Center this past summer, I came across a gorgeous set of  hand-painted lantern slides. The subject matter was Japanese landscapes and everyday scenes, but beyond that there was no information about who the artist was, when these slides were created, or where they may have come from. I wanted to digitize them, but first I needed more information. These slides remained in the back of my mind for the better part of 6 months, until yesterday when I used Tineye and stumbled upon a goldmine.

Flickr user Okinawa_Soba has digitized and made available hundreds of images made by

T. Enami. Mount Fuji and Boatmen in the Early Morning Light. On the Shore of Lake Yamanaka. Ca.1907.

T. Enami, a Japanese photographer active ca. 1892-1929. Scanned from original lantern slides, prints, stereoviews, and postcards, the collection is organized into sets by either medium (stereoviews, halftone, etc.) or subject matter (post 1923 Japan, squatting geisha, etc.). While the Flickr site is informative, with each set and image accompanied by a description, Okinawa_Soba points viewers to a website he created focused on the life and work of T. Enami. A lot of the text from the Flickr collection is duplicated from the website (or visa-versa), though the website seems to be more comprehensive in terms of information about Enami’s life and studio. One caveat is that it is difficult to determine the source of this information.

If you’ve gone through both the Flickr collection and website and still find yourself wanting more T. Enami, Okinawa_Soba directs users to collections at the bottom of the T. Enami collection on Flickr. It is explained, however, that many of the images are not posted on line or may be wrongly attributed.

All images are available for non-commercial use, with proper attribution. If you’d like to see some of the lantern slides in person, stop by the Visual Resources Center in 210a architecture!

Wiki Loves Art Nouveau

the interior of the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest taken by Csaba Attila Kontar

Wiki Loves Art Nouveau is a collaboration between Wiki Loves Monuments and Europeana, in which crowd-sourced photo submissions are paired with informational content to create an interactive online exhibition that explores the Art Nouveau movement. Europeana sponsored an Art Nouveau category in the Wiki Loves Monuments photo contest, and from a pool of 2,600 submissions viewed 16,000 times by 700 voters, the winning image of the interior of the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest taken by Csaba Attila Kontar was selected. The winning image along with forty other highly ranked photographs and an additional ten selected by a panel of European editors have been combined to create this online exhibition.The exhibition explores the Art Nouveau movement through four thematic micro exhibits, three of which are format based and one that features supplemental images and thematic exploration selected by the editors. The formats explored include exteriors, interiors, and details creating an over-arching emphasis on the way that technological innovation enabled artists, architects and designers to pursue unified exteriors, interiors, and decorative elements. Attention is paid to recurring design motifs drawn from nature and the gravitation towards undulating non-linear elements as a rejection of the existing neoclassical conventions.

The exhibition is smartly structured – it provides a thorough introduction to the style with ample illustration that explains the movements theoretical substance while allowing users unfamiliar with Art Nouveau to grasp its aesthetic execution. At the same time, the structured presentation of the images and text creates a systematic argument for the cohesiveness of the style and the thoroughness with which it was applied in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The exhibition focuses on Art Nouveau as a stylistic break with tradition and a reaction against convention visible in everything from its non-geometric architecture to the use of gold decoration and lighting to evoke a whimsical other-worldliness. The exhibition manages to stress the hallmarks of the style in a structured and systematic way without reducing it to a formula. For a more comprehensive history and exploration of the style, see Europeana’s other Art Nouveau virtual exhibition


year in review / happy holidays

Santas at the Santa Claus School, Albion, N.Y.

Arbus, Diane, Santas at the Santa Claus School, Albion, N.Y., 1964.

It’s been a busy year for the Visual Resources Center, and as we prepare to leave campus for the holidays I’d like to take some time to reflect upon some of the new images and services available not only to the College of Fine and Applied Arts, but also the campus community.

In February we began to use Shared Shelf, a new image management and cataloging platform that allows the VRC to upload content into ARTstor, a library of digital images. While ARTstor already has over one million images in it’s collection, it’s still not entirely comprehensive for teaching and research needs here in FAA. Since February, the VRC has uploaded almost 4,000 images, including the photography of Diane Arbus and Gordon Parks, works from Asia, the Impressionists, and much more. To browse the collection, simply double click on “FAA Teaching Collection” in the institutional collections section of ARTstor’s homepage. We are continuously adding new images, so please let us know if there is something you’d like to see.

The VRC has also been trying to reach out to more potential users in order to improve access to (and information about) digital images. In the fall we debuted our new website, which contains information on everything from accessing our ARTstor collection to digital preservation best practices. Next year we will be working on improving the navigation of the website, making it a more user-friendly and intuitive experience. We’ve also been teaching ARTstor workshops through the library’s Savvy Researcher workshop series, where you can learn about using the database for finding and teaching with images.

Next semester we’ll continue to provide these services, but we are always looking to improve. Be on the lookout for a workshop on finding images (not focused on ARTstor),  an event showcasing digital humanities tools, and possibly a workshop on editing images using free online tools. If there is something specific related to visual resources that you’re interested in learning more about, please don’t hesitate to contact us about it.

I hope you’ve all had a great year as well, and wish you the happiest of holidays.

Subject sorting in Google Images: Because Google hasn’t mastered mind-reading yet

In case you aren’t already aware, Google Images has a ‘Sort by Subject’ feature on its results page – it’s the kind of left-margin item that can go easily unnoticed, but for the utility it provides, it should 80 pt. font and flashing. When you conduct a Google images search the default display (bolded and in red) is ‘All results’. The alternative view is ‘By Subject’ which breaks down your results into the most popular images associated with your search. It’s the ideal tool for those, “I can picture it, I just don’t remember what it’s called” searches.

Try it out, but more importantly keep it in mind for those moments when you really need Google to do your remembering for you.

The Lyonel Feininger Archive

Lyonel Feininger : Photographs, 1928-1939

Harvard’s Houghton Library and the Harvard Art Museum’s Lyonel Feininger Archive have collaborated to create an online research microsite presenting a comprehensive collection of Feininger’s largely un-seen photographic works. Harvard holds the majority of Feininger’s photographs, with some 500 photographic prints at the Houghton Library and approximately 18,000 negatives and slides in the Feininger Archive. All of this material has now been digitized and made available through a searchable database, located at the Lyonel Feininger Research Microsite – one of four such microsites created and maintained by Harvard.
The Busch Reisinger Museum at Harvard recently held two exhibitions featuring the work of Lyonel Feininger. The catalog for the photographic exhibition, Lyonel Feininger : photographs, 1928-1939 (Harvard Art Museums, 2011) is now available at the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art. The exhibitions, “Lyonel Feininger: Drawings and Watercolors from the William S. Lieberman Bequest to the Busch-Reisinger Museum” and “Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928–1939” ran from February 26 to July 17 before traveling abroad. They represented Harvard’s extensive holdings of Feininger’s work, in particular his photographs – which had never before been exhibited.

Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is well-known as a painter and an important contributor to the Bauhaus and German modern art. His long-term engagement with photography has never previously been explored. In the exhibition catalog for his photographic work, it is speculated that Feininger did not pursue photography more publicly because of his sons’ enthusiasm for the medium. Both of Feininger’s sons, Andreas and T. Lux made careers as photographers and writers on photography.

Harvard’s Feininger Microsite is the first widely accessible presentation of Feininger’s photography and it represents an enormous asset to Feininger researchers and enthusiasts. The content of the site was compiled and by Nathan J. Timpano (2009–2010 Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow, Busch-Reisinger Museum) and the commentary and biographical information is drawn from the exhibition catalog organized byLaura Muir (assistant curator, Busch-Reisinger Museum). The site allows users to search the collection by text, title, object number, date range, medium, subject and/or creation place. Additionally, given the low-profile nature of this collection and the presumed unfamiliarity of the user, the site offers an extremely useful feature wherein they can browse characteristic slideshows of prominent subjects within the collection. These include, ‘art documentation’, ‘Bauhaus’, ‘Trips to California’, ‘New England’ and ‘shop windows’ among others. Each of these subject slide shows bears an informational excerpt about the work presented. The site is smartly designed, easy to use, and the photographs are breathtaking.

With the Feininger exhibitions, catalog, and research microsite, Harvard has presented an interesting model where artistic collections, archival resources, and resident experts have been brought together to steward, curate, publish and develop new tools that act as both promotional tools for the museum and research tools for the University.

The Doodle Revolution

If you ever find yourself doodling during class or in a meeting, don’t feel

17 Ideas for Content Creation, by Veronica Maria Jarski

guilty. According to Sunni Brown, it’s one of the most productive things you can be doing. An avid visual literacy advocate, Sunni is best known for large-scale strategic doodles and Gamestorming, a book that outlines visual thinking techniques for business. She is also a TED speaker and conversationalist.

The Doodle Revolution website features examples of large scale doodles done organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and TEDGlobal 2011 in Edinburgh, as well as a toolkit, information on bootcamps and webinars, and a doodle showcase. I found the toolkit to be especially informative, as it contains lists of books, videos, articles, and slides that direct users to more information on visual thinking and visual literacy. While I have been thinking of visual literacy in terms of interpreting meaning from an object that someone else, such as Jacob Riis, has created, I neglected to realize that one’s own ‘doodles’ can be important forms of scholarship and communication.

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

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.

Visual Resource Center debuts website

Ever feel like you’ve run out of internet to browse? You’ve checked your email, gotten up to date on your Facebook news, and did the latest NY Times Crossword online. What next?

Hop on over to the new Visual Resources Center’s website and learn all about ARTstor, copyright, and digital images. Our new site offers links to ARTstor trainings and handouts for your convenience, as well as information on finding, creating, editing, presenting, and preserving images. In addition, visitors to the site can peruse links related to copyright information, download workflow automator tools, and discover other new resources such as Tineye. You can even “like” us on Facebook to have this blog in your newsfeed, or visit our Youtube channel where we will be posting video tutorials (still a work in progress).

Feel free to leave comments with suggestions for other resources to include on the site. It is meant to be a useful resource for the campus community, and we are always looking to improve.

the Memory of the Netherlands

Welcome back, students, faculty, and staff! We hope your fall semester is off to a delightful start.

For those of you with an interest in Netherlandish history, I’m about to make your week even more delightful. The Memory of the Netherlands is a self-described “gigantic digital treasury,” full of information about the Dutch past. Offering hundreds of thousands of digital images, recordings, film footage, and texts, the Memory site organizes this wealth of information into several exhibitions, collections, and themes.

While you’ll still find images of windmills, wooden shoes and tulips are few and far between. Rather, the Memory site provides well thought out exhibitions that explore life in Holland today and themes that range from religion to cartoons.

While the Memory site is largely in English and searchable using English keywords, information about the images and other objects are in Dutch.

Center for Multimedia Excellence media survey

If you haven’t filled out the Center for Multimedia Excellence’s campus media survey yet, what are you waiting for? It takes 5-10 minutes, and the results will help to improve campus media accessibility, management, and preservation. You may remember reading about this through a Mass Mail sent by the Vice Chancellor of Research, but just in case you don’t, it’s re-posted below.

“To: Faculty and Staff:

The Data Stewardship Initiative and the Center for Multimedia Excellence are working jointly to identify multimedia collections to better understand management and preservation requirements on campus. The groups will contact faculty and staff to help the campus more clearly understand the needs of researchers, multimedia producers and archivists.

We ask that you participate in these efforts by responding to a brief online survey . This survey seeks to identify collections of audio, film, video, and still images of value for research, instructional, and outreach purposes.

A more detailed census of media collections will follow, conducted through interviews and visits to buildings across campus by students from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In addition, the Data Stewardship Initiative will conduct a second survey focused on non-media based research data holdings on campus later this spring.

The Data Stewardship Initiative consists of the University Library, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and other campus stakeholders. It was created in response to the Stewarding Excellence at Illinois report that recommended that the campus develop a baseline understanding of the activities and needs for data services, curation, and stewardship. Details are available here.

The Center for Multimedia Excellence, comprised of campus multimedia professionals, seeks to identify individuals and campus units that hold digital and analog media collections in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for the preservation of media used for research and non-research purposes. Details are available here.

These efforts are vital to the University’s research, education, and public engagement missions. Increasingly, funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation are requiring grant recipients to better manage and provide access to data generated by projects.

Even when not required, long-term data storage and accessibility are useful to researchers who generate data, as well as to scholars who later use the data in their own work. As a major research university, we must identify ways to improve the ability of our researchers to access and store data, and we must develop a comprehensive strategy to preserve and share our rich multimedia collections here at Illinois.”

CITES Teaching with technology forum

For anyone interested in finding and using digital images for teaching or research, there is a “brown bag” lunchtime talk coming up this Wednesday (the 23rd of February) that will be discussing ARTstor. The information is as follows:

Teaching with Technology Brown Bag Forum–Wednesday, February 23 (12-1pm) at 23 Illini Hall

All Things Images: Using ARTstor for Teaching and Research, Presented by: Sarah Christensen, Visual Resources, and Anne D. Hedeman, Art History

With the need for digital images becoming more prevalent in classrooms, ARTstor can be a useful resource in finding, organizing, sharing, and presenting these images. As a digital image library, ARTstor contains images from a wide variety of disciplines outside of art, so don’t let the name fool you! Sarah Christensen will discuss how to make the features of ARTstor work for you, while Anne D. Hedeman will demonstrate how she utilizes ARTstor in her Compass course site.

If you can’t attend, the talk will be recorded and posted online shortly after. That link will be posted here as well.


Hope you can make it!

Graphics Atlas

Ever wonder what  the difference is between an engraving and an etching? Graphics Atlas, a project of the Image Permanence Institute, will show you. With this tool, users can compare different printing techniques side by side and learn about the methods used for each technique. In addition, the site features fantastic visual tools such as the ability to zoom in and out, flip the page over, see a side view, and change the light source. The mediums discussed range from pre-photogenic (etchings, mezzotints) to digital.

Rome in a day

The Architecture department at the University of Oregon has developed two useful interactive mapping tools of Rome. The first, the interactive Nolli map of Rome, is a digitization of the 1748 map of Rome by Giambattista Nolli. This map is regarded by scholars as one of the most important historical documents of the city, and through the work of the University of Oregon the public now has access to this work. Users can zoom in and out, as well as add layers such as gardens, pathways, and fountains.

The second project is Imago Urbis: Giuseppe Vasi’s Grand Tour of Rome, which integrates the Nolli map with the work of Nolli’s contemporary, Giuseppe Vasi (1710-1782). Vasi’s detailed documentation of Rome’s buildings and monuments established him as one of the city’s greatest topographers. With this tool users can view Nolli’s map and Vasi’s plates simultaneously, making it easier to imagine Rome in the 18th century. Plates are grouped into 8 days of an itinerary, making the grand tour of Rome accessible from your couch.

Friday diversions

Google’s Keyword Guessing Game is a fun way to think about image indexing, keyword relevancy, and finding images online. The game asks you to think of the keyword that produced the grid of 20 images shown. You have 20 seconds to guess the keyword, but extra points are awarded for speed. View How to Play for some tips.

The game is developed by Grant Robinson, who is working on other projects such as Montage-a-google or Make It-Share It. More information can be found on his blog.

Making flashcards in ARTstor

Spending hours making flashcards for exams? Why not let ARTstor do the work for you. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

1. Register for an ARTstor account and login. If you don’t know how to register for an account, watch this video.

2. Once you are logged in, search for the images you’ll need to study. If your instructor posts their lecture images in ARTstor, find them by clicking on the “folders and image groups” link in the middle of  the main page and scanning the list for your class.

3. Once you’ve found the images you’ll need, select them by single clicking on each one. A red border will appear around the ones that you’ve selected. To deselect, single click on the image again so that the border goes away.

4. Once your images are selected, go to the  organize menu at the top of the page and go to “save selected images to…” Here you can either create a new image group, or add images to an existing image group.

5. When the pop-up screen appears to ask you where you want to save your image group, make sure your work group is highlighted.

6. Once you have selected a name and destination for your image group, click on “save and open.”

7. Now that you’ve opened your image group, go to the share menu at the top of the page and click on “print image group.” You’ll have your choice of how much information you want on your flashcards.

8. Once you make your selection, a new window will pop up displaying your flash cards. Here, you can print them out. Make sure that your pop-up windows are disabled when using ARTstor.

brief record with instructor notes