Blog Post

Report: The American Art History and Digital Scholarship conference, Nov. 15-16, 2013

Last week, I traveled to Washington, DC, for the Archives of American Art’s symposium and workshop on American Art History and Digital Scholarship: New Avenues of Exploration.

The conference was impressive – speakers covered topics ranging from a computational analysis of Andy Warhol’s Flower series, to a database of New York gallery sales (which led us to a reframing of which gallerists were the most influential and financially successful), to a student project here at Duke that allowed undergraduates to curate an online exhibition of local African-American art in collaboration with Duke’s Nasher Art Museum.

In fact, the talks were all so impressive, that I don’t really know where to begin. When that happens, I stick to bulleted lists, so here’s some great resources that you can see for yourself that were discussed at the symposium:

  • The Photogrammar Project (Yale University)
    This project uses a database of FSA photographs that Dr. Laura Wexler describes as simulacra – copies without an original. Photogrammar helps scholars interrogate these copies: How do they represent, or not represent, the lost original (the Dust Bowl US)? Photogrammar has already changed our view of this famous government project by showing that although it was traditionally perceived as a Southern initiative, a map of the database shows images distributed fairly evenly throughout the country. It also allows us to examine the tagging system implemented in the 1940s. Image and text analysis tools are under development.
  • Warhol Timeweb (Andy Warhol Museum)
    I’m particularly fond of the Timeweb project, which I worked on as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. Timeweb is designed to teach students and the public about Warhol’s world and times through the lens of his life and art. A linear timeline at the bottom shows Warhol’s artworks and life events, but the linearity quickly breaks down as users are encouraged to explore the complicated web of politics, current events, pop culture, art culture, Cold War culture, and more by clicking through curated nodes. The project is still under development, but the beta can be viewed by clicking the link above.
  • African American Close-Up (Duke University, Nasher Art Museum)
    Richard J. Powell at Duke University worked with the Nasher Art Museum to guide his students in the creation of an online exhibition of works by local African-American artists. The result is an impressive website for which students created knowledge, rather than just regurgitating it.
  • The Story of the Beautiful: Freer, Whistler, and Their Points of Contact (Freer-Sackler Gallery, Wayne State University)
    The most staggeringly beautiful website shared at the symposium was the Freer-Sackler Gallery’s collaboration with Wayne State to digitize the Peacock Room. They’ve also created a mobile app that looks equally beautiful, engaging, and interactive. I’ll leave it at that – just see for yourself.

On Saturday, I got to participate in a workshop which brought together digital humanists interested in developing their research, pedagogy, and museum offerings. In fact, you can join in the continued discussion on HASTAC – join our newly created Art History group to engage with many of the workshop participants (as well as other HASTAC members interested in art and art history!). And contribute to our work-in-progress, crowd-sourced digital toolkit, which will be housed on HASTAC as well. 

To read much more about the conference, visit the #AAHDS Storify.  

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