Is the discipline of art history (together with museums and libraries) squandering the digital revolution? We’re not the only ones with this concern. Just last week James Cunowrote a short article, “How Art History is Failing the Internet” and WIlliam Noeltweeted, “Calling on all other great libraries; follow @britishlibrary‘s example. Free your images!”
What we lost
Although eight years have passed since Eastman Kodak announced that it would stop manufacturing slide projectors, we have built only a fragmented system for distributing high-quality digital images—one that is failing our students, our discipline and the public. More has changed than the technology we use to illustrate our lectures. Pre-digital, we sought and created slides from the best available sources. We retained excellent older reproductions, purchased high-quality sets, and made new images on copy-stands. In each case, the guiding principle was to expand the slide collection with the highest quality images. One might think digital technology would have made it easier to follow this principle; unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Even though we live in a culture where high-quality educational resources are being widely and freely distributed (think iTunesU, Khan Academy, edX), high-quality images remain expensive and using them for teaching is more complicated than ever. Even as access to educational materials becomes more open, and images become ever more ubiquitous, high-resolution images that reproduce works of art (with reliable metadata) remain highly restricted.
Read full post here. (Originally posted November 26, 2012)