Saturday 8 December 2012

Why? Like, seriously - why?

An interesting piece by James Cuno for the Daily Dot has been doing the rounds lately. The web, data analysis software, and collaborative tools offer so much, and yet:
... we aren't conducting art historical research differently. We aren't working collaboratively and experimentally. As art historians we are still, for the most part, solo practitioners working alone in our studies and publishing in print and online as single authors and only when the work is fully baked. We are still proprietary when it comes to our knowledge. We want sole credit for what we write.
Cuno's article was followed up on by Beth Harris and Steven Hucker, in a piece titled “Can I Use This?” How Museum and Library Image Policies Undermine Education. They challenge the restricted release of high-resolution images of collection items by museums and galleries, arguing that
Art historians have accepted the legal overreach by museums, even while admitting the harm done to their own scholarship and that undertaken by their students. Scholars and students have no legal tools to do otherwise—teachers don’t normally have access to a general counsel. In essence, museums suppress scholarship and educational initiatives via a chilling effect. Museums assert layers of restrictions with impenetrable legal language (see for example, a reproduction of a painting by the 19th-century artist Gustave Caillebotte). As art historians want to maintain their strong ties to museums, they often simply forgo publishing an image. The irony is that other disciplines more freely use the 42,500 results that come from a simple Google image search for the Caillebotte cited above.
Finally, a piece I found late last night and have only skimmed myself, but feel is likely to link in: Hasan Niyazi's 'The moment of digital art history?'. It's a literature review and polite polemic aligned to both the above pieces, but also argues for art history being set down outside the academy (in which to some extent I include galleries) through newspaper and freelance blogs.

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