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Readings & Resources: Digital Art History

August 20, 2015

Hannah L. Jacobs

Over the last year or two, you may have heard the buzz phrase “digital art history” floating around at conferences, mentioned in passing by professors, and popping up in journal articles. What is it? How did it start? Where is it going? Do you want to become a “digital art historian”? If you are wondering any of these questions, then the following readings and resources are for you. If you already consider yourself a digital art historian, then these readings and resources are for you, too.

This list is far from comprehensive, but it should get you going. All of these readings and resources have rich bibliographies that will lead further into the jungles of digital art history and digital humanities.

What is digital art history (dah)?

The creation of any art historical project using material that can be digitized, accessed, searched, processed, produced, repurposed, or analyzed in digital form.” (1)

“Digital Art History is not a discrete discipline, but an umbrella name for methods that involve digital tools, techniques and processes of analysis and interpretation, ranging from basic statistics to complex applications of Artificial Intelligence (computer vision, pattern recognition, automation, etc.). These tool and techniques are not unique to Art History; they are unimethods.” (2)

““…the idea of digital art history needs to be reframed to encompass a broad scope of research activities, some of which may be technology-facilitated without being quantitative in nature and others which may be technology-enabled.” (3)

Readings

Drucker, Johanna. “Is There a ‘Digital’ Art History?” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 29 (2013): 5-13.

Flecther, Pamela. “Reflections on Digital Art History.” caa.reviews 73 (2015).

Greenhalgh, Michael. “Art History.” in A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

“Zurich Declaration on Digital Art History (2014).” Document drawn up by the international working conference on Digital Art History: Challenges and Prospects at the Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Switzerland, June 26-26, 2014.

How did digital art history become a “thing”?

art historians have been engaged in theorizing and using computational technologies and techniques since the 1980s.” (4)

“An early use of the phrase ‘DAH’ is in 1997 by Sally M. Promey and Miriam Stewart in “Digital Art History: a new field for collaboration”, published in American Art.14 The authors describe teaching and learning with digital images, and recognize “the larger implications of new electronic technologies for visual education and scholarship in the museum and the academy”.15 There is no mention of DAH other than in the title, but the authors offer a number of insightful observations concerning the subject. ” (5)

Readings

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna. “Debating Digital Art History.” International Journal of Digital Art History  1 (2015): 50-64.

Zorich,Diane M. Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Kress Foundation, 2012.

Zweig, Benjamin. “Forgotten Genealogies: Brief Reflections on the History of Digital Art History.” International Journal of Digital Art History  1 (2015): 36-49.

Where is digital art history going?

“… the emergence of digital art history is perceived as threatening to art history’s operational paradigmbecause it requires new types of training, new methods of research, and new modes for communicating and distributing research results.” (6)

“Digital Art History has been mainly promoted through applications of digital technology. Little effort has been made to conceptualize this practice; to connect projects and evaluate patterns in emerging methodologies and critical perspectives. Digital Art History has not established its own canon of critical texts.” (7)

The majority of innovation in digital art history is said to be occurring in the supporting structures of the profession, such as libraries, museums, university presses, foundations, and specialized professional organizations…” (8)

“…a clear distinction has to be made between the use of online repositories and images, which is digitized art history, and the use of analytic techniques enabled by computational technology that is the proper domain ofdigital art history. We have to take into account the ways digital humanities more broadly have taken up computational techniques and then consider the specificity of visual art objects and their particular requirements and points of resistance.” (9)

Readings

Drucker, Johanna. “Is There a ‘Digital’ Art History?” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 29 (2013): 5-13.

Fisher, Michelle Millar and Anne Swartz. “Why Digital Art History?” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 30 (2014): 125-137.

Manovich, Lev. “Data Science and Digital Art History.” International Journal of Digital Art History  1 (2015): 10-35.

#digitalarthistory Twitter Archive: Search/Filter | Explorer | Data

So you want to be a digital art historian.

The following is a short list of writings by other students and scholars just getting into digital art history. This list is designed to show you what others just like you are thinking and doing.

Readings

Keshani, Hussein. “Encounters with Digital Art History.” Ars Orientalis 44 (2015).

Ross, Nancy. “Teaching Twentieth Century Art History with Gender and Data Visualizations.” The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy 4.

Sierhuis, Danuta. Unessay: Reflections on Digital History and Digital Art History.

Visualizing Venice: The Biennale & The City Storify

Finally, here’s a list of resources to help you dive deeper. But don’t just read these: attend a workshop, start your own project, and engage with other digital art historians on Twitter and in the blogosphere!

Resources

Art History Teaching Resources

Beyond the Digitized Slide Library: A Digital Art History Institute at UCLA supported by the Getty Foundation

Building a Digital Portfolio

Computers and the History of Art (CHArt)

Fair Use for the Visual Arts

International Journal for Digital Art History

Rebuilding the Portfolio: DH for Art Historians

Spiro, Lisa. “Getting started in the DH.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities: Exploring the digital humanities. October 14, 2011.

Wired! Lab Zotero Library “digital art history” tag

Events

The Borders of Digital Art

College Art Association

Digital Humanities 2016

The Getty

Notes

1. Johanna Drucker, “Digital Art History?” (lecture presented at Beyond the Digitized Slide Library: A Digital Art History Institute at UCLA supported by the Getty Foundation, Los Angeles, California, July 6, 2015).

2. Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, “Debating Digital Art History,” International Journal of Digital Art History 1 (2015): 59.

3. Benjamin Zweig, “Forgotten Genealogies: Brief Reflections on the History of Digital Art History,” International Journal of Digital Art History  1 (2015): 46.

4. Matthew P. Long and Roger C. Schonfeld, Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians (IthakaS+R, 2014), 43.

5. Bentkowska-Kafel, “Debating Digital Art History,” 55.

6. Diane M. Zorich, Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship (Kress Foundation, 2012), 20.

7. Bentkowska-Kafel, “Debating Digital Art History,” 58.

8. Zorich, Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship, 38.

9. Johanna Drucker, “Is There a ‘Digital’ Art History?,” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 29 (2013): 7.