ARTstor is a digital image library for art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences. It was founded in the late 1990’s by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a non-for profit initiative. During that time several educational institutions wondered how to migrate to digital image the analog slides that they use for teaching art history and simultaneously other scholars in the field felt that new digital technologies could lead to a greater recognition of special collections. In its mission statement ARTstor define its goal to use digital technology to enhance scholarship, teaching and learning in the arts and associated fields.
ARTstor’s primary target audiences are scholars, students, and educators in the arts. ARTstor digital collection policy states those images are included because they have a noted teaching or research value. Several well-known national and international museums have contributed to the collection, among them for example the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Further, smaller galleries, special collections from libraries and archives and other organizations have contributed and still contribute to it. An overview of the currently-included collection can be found here.
Currently ARTstor contents approximate 550,000 images (with more images being constantly added).
The name ARTstor was chosen because several years earlier the Mellon Foundation sponsored the successful creation of JSTOR (JSTOR stands for Journal Storage); an on-line archive of digitized scholarly journals.
Once in ARTstor one has several options to access images. As a novice user I preferred to browse the alphabetical listed ARTstor collection. This is by no means the only browse option – others are browsing by geography, by classification, etc. More advanced users looking for something more specific can search this digital library using the basic or advanced search functions.
Images are very well presented: one can click on an image and is presented with several options such as zooming, rotating, maximizing or minimizing the window, printing and downloading images.Additionally, metadata and terms and conditions of usage are presented.
ARTstor offers many more valuable features such as a daily on-hour training session, RSS, a blog, a newsletter, an Offline Image Viewer (OIV), etc.
ARTstor is fun to browse and I could spend hours looking at all the different collections. It also gives users the opportunity to research art collections that are rather unknown or not within once vicinity.
Anybody interested in art will really enjoy this digital library. One thing that I don’t like about it is, however, is that it is not freely accessibly to a general art interested public.