Open Access Week 2015

This week is Open Access Week, an annual opportunity to highlight the benefits of sharing scholarly research and resources online.

Kevin Smith, director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at Duke University Libraries, will speak in the Morris Library Reading Room at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, October 21. His lecture, “The Meaning of Publication in the Digital Age, or What Open Access Can Do for You,” is part of UD’s celebration of Open Access Week.

You can read more about it in UDaily.

The Papal Visit

Caradosso, Pope Julius II [obverse] and View of Saint Peter's [reverse], 1506 (photo: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Caradosso, Pope Julius II [obverse] and View of Saint Peter’s [reverse], 1506 (photo: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Let’s face it: if you live around here, you’re probably not going to be doing a lot of driving this weekend. With all the pandemonium surrounding Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia, many of us are either hunkering down at home or getting out of town altogether.

What better time to think about all your favorite popes in art? Of course the first pope, Saint Peter, is a key figure. During the Middle Ages, there were a bunch of popes named Gregory and Innocent and whatnot. There was a Saint Francis (who was said to have miraculously appeared to Pope Nicholas V), but until 2013 there had never been a Pope Francis. For awhile, the Papal Court even moved from Rome to southern France, and sometimes there were simply too many popes at once. At the height of the Renaissance, Julius II commissioned Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Stanze frescoes, and Bramante’s design for rebuilding Saint Peter’s Basilica. He also collected ancient sculptures like the Apollo Belvedere and Laocoön, which would inspire generations of artists. But not everybody was a fan of such papal indulgence, or indulgences for that matter. Martin Luther and other reformers soon challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. When the Medici Pope Clement VII refused to annul the first marriage of Henry VIII, the king essentially declared himself the pope of England. The Vatican countered with a series of strong popes in the later 16th and 17th centuries. Innocent X was the patron of the Baroque sculptor Algardi, while Alexander VII preferred Bernini. But the temporal power of the popes began to wane in the 18th century, and by the death of the Pius IX in 1878, the Vatican complex was all that remained under their control.

All of these images–and many thousands more–are now free and available for anyone to use (legally!) because they were provided by institutions that have adopted generous Open Access policies. So thank you to such museums as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others. I encourage everyone to reward them with a little extra Web traffic this papal weekend!

25th Anniversary of the Gardner Theft

Johannes Vermeer, The Concert (detail), ca. 1665, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (stolen 1990)

Johannes Vermeer, The Concert (detail), ca. 1665, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (stolen 1990)

Twenty-five years ago today, two thieves stole thirteen works of art–together valued at around half a billion dollars–from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It was the largest property crime ever in this country, and one of the most famous art thefts of all time. The stolen items have never been returned. The Gardner is still offering a $5,000,000 reward for their recovery.

Among the works lost were five drawings by Degas, a painting by Manet, three Rembrandts, and one of only about three dozen Vermeers in existence.

The Gardner is commemorating this milestone with a slideshow on its website, where you can learn more about these works and the events of March 18, 1990.

New Online Resources

Hindenburg disaster, 1937, film still from British Pathé

Hindenburg disaster, 1937, film still from British Pathé

A number of new online sources for images, text, and video are now available:

Getty Images for Free

Getty Images logoAfter years of filing lawsuits against those who used their photographs without permission, Getty Images (not to be confused with the the Getty Trust and the J. Paul Getty Museum) has made millions of its stock photos free to anyone who wants to use them for noncommercial purposes.

The one big catch: you have to use their “embed” tool to insert their pictures into your site, which may make them too cumbersome to use. Also note that Getty Images is not making all of its images free–just the rather generic stock photos. So, for example, journalists will still have to pay for the more specific images of current events to illustrate their news stories.

You can read more about this important change from Getty Images in places like Bloomberg Businessweek and CNET.

Fate of the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The 140-year history of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC appears to be coming to an end (at least, its history as an independent institution). According to a plan announced this week, the National Gallery of Art will assume responsibility for its renowned art collection and George Washington University will take over its art school and landmark building. Many of the Corcoran’s treasures will become part of the National Gallery of Art’s own collection, while the rest of its 17,000 objects will be dispersed to other museums. Long an institution with serious financial troubles, the Corcoran had previously been considering a merger with the University of Maryland.

You can read more about the Corcoran’s future here.

The Visual Resources Collection is now the Visual Resources Center

VRC LogoWith the start of the 2013-2014 academic year, the Visual Resources Collection officially becomes the Visual Resources Center. Our new name is meant to better reflect the wide range of activities we now undertake in a completely digital environment.

But even with this change, the task of building our online image collections will remain the cornerstone of what we do. And of course we will still be, in every sense, the “VRC.”

The First Photo on the Web

WWW logoDid you know that today is the 20th anniversary of the first photographic image ever uploaded to the World Wide Web? It happened at the CERN lab near Geneva, Switzerland, where Tim Berners-Lee created the Web in the early 1990s. And wow, what an image! I like to think that our Photoshop abilities have come a long way since 1992.

Anyway, there’s an interesting story here about that momentous day in technological history.

Opening of the New Barnes Foundation

This weekend the Barnes Foundation reopened in its new building on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The collection has been closed for nearly a year in order to move to Center City from its longtime home in suburban Merion, Pennsylvania (I posted a story on its closure last summer here).

Controversy is no stranger to the Barnes, never more so than in the years leading up to this relocation. Court battles continue over whether the move was even legal. For its part, the new museum building tries to recreate the experience of visiting the collection in its old home, although not everyone has been impressed with the result.

The Barnes Foundation will be open for 56 consecutive hours during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. For more information on this and other events surrounding the opening, click here.

Art in the News

KodakIt was a slow start to the year, but things have picked up in the last week or so. Let’s start with the big news from January:

  • The bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak should come as no great surprise to anyone in this digital world, but it’s a sad loss nonetheless. Long before JPEGs there were Kodachrome slides, and long before Powerpoint there was the Kodak Carousel slide projector. Generations of art history students grew up on Kodak products.
  • Two deaths and a birthday (sort of): American Surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) and artist Mike Kelley (1954-2012) both died last week. And January 28 would have been the 100th birthday of Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956).
  • And just when we thought the Dan Brown effect was finally on the wane, there’s a new revelation about Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.