2014 Speakers: Francesca Albrezzi and Tom Scutt, Getty Research Institute

Francesca is currently the Research Assistant to the head of Digital Art History at the Getty Research Institute and working on her PhD in the department of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. After gaining institutional experience with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smith College Museum of Art, her research focuses on the efficacy of digital tools and how they are reshaping the discipline of art history and quotidian cultural practices.

Tom is currently working at the Getty Research Institute as graduate intern in the department of Digital Art History. Previously, he worked on projects to encourage engagement with collections and develop online resources at the Courtauld Institute of Art and Bloomberg New Contemporaries in London.

They’re going to be presenting a talk titled “Getty Scholars’ Workspace: Developing tools, methods, and standards for conducting and publishing original research in digital form.” After starting with several prototype projects that were presented at THATCamp CAA 2013 in New York, we would like to offer an update to the Getty Scholars’ Workspace project.  The Getty Research Institute is working to develop tools, methods, and standards for conducting and publishing original art-historical research in digital form. In this next phase, we are examining what is entailed in moving from an internal workspace to a publicly available publication in the digital age, and how to build and share a flexible online environment and set of protocols that can be used by multiple institutions around the world.


1. What is your current involvement with “digital art history”?

We both focus on the development of tools, methods, and standards for conducting and publishing original research in digital form. Currently working with institutions such as the University of Málaga, the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris, and soon with the Columbia University, the Morgan Library and Museum, and the Université de Reims, we support research projects that take place in an online environment.  Through the course of the research processes we have tried to recognize and replicate the working patterns of art historians, anticipating and adapting the tools we are building to suit their needs. Eventually we will release the toolset to the community as open-source software based on the Drupal platform.

2. What is one of the most pressing issues in the field of “digital art history” today?

Where to begin? Do you start by making digital resources available for all of the analogue materials you rely on, or do you start with a singular project and produce resources and tools as and when they are required? It seems that in an imaginary Venn diagram showing rings of ‘resources’, ‘software’, and ‘expertise’ with ‘digital scholarship’ at the center, there is always at least one element holding back progress.

Digital Art History seems to be at a crossroads: where scholars must begin to learn how to work with technical tools and technical experts, perhaps gaining new insights into their material through the process, and institutional/organizational structures need to change and allow for deep collaborations between technologists and art historians, where each begin to settle on a common language and workflow.

3.  Where do you see innovations happening?

As Murtha Baca outline in a forthcoming new piece in Visual Resources, new protocols such as Linked Open Data make it possible to access, download, link to, and share large structured data. Relinquishing institutional control and allowing this material to be consumed and repurposed is an exciting prospect. It seems that, rather than hoarding scholarship internally, the movement towards a more democratic distribution of knowledge is where innovation will happen. We hope that this will result in a broader analysis, disrupting traditional binaries between centers and peripheries.

4.  What’s the panel or issue you’d most like to see proposed for THATCamp CAA in Chicago?

The discipline of Art History undeniably drags its feet behind many of the other humanities. Since, in most cases, the methodologies and apparatus that scholars rely on lend themselves to analogue scholarship, the question becomes: where and how can digital tools contribute in a meaningful way to working practices? We can approximate practices, but is imitation really the same as innovation?  How can working with digital tools lead us to ask new questions within the discipline of art history? How do we better prepare the next generation of scholars to use the gains of technology without detracting from the importance of good research?


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