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T
he Courtauld Institute of Art, founded in
1932, is the major centre in Britain for the
study of the history of Western art, and is one
of the premier art historical institutes in the world
(www.courtauld.ac.uk).
1
Since 1990, the Courtauld
Institute and its gallery have occupied the Strand block
of Somerset House in London.
2
Highlights of the
Institute are its world-renowned collection of Impres-
sionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, and the
Conway Photographic Library comprising over a mil-
lion images of architecture, sculpture, medieval pain-
tings, and architectural drawings and manuscripts. No
other archive has a comparable documentation of the
artistic heritage of the West over medium, time and
place.
The Courtauld Institute is a College of the Federal
University of London. It has a teaching staff of thirty
(including six conservation teachers), who specialise in
a broad spectrum of the arts and architecture of the
Western world from classical antiquity to the present
day. Approximately 400 art history students are cur-
rently at the Institute: one third are taking postgraduate
courses, one third are engaged in research at PhD level,
and one third are undergraduates. Following the retire-
ment of Professor Eric Fernie at year's end 2002, the
new Director will be James Cuno, Professor of History
of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, and
Director of the Harvard University Art Museums.
3
ticular subject.The sta-
ted aim of the Art and
Architecture project is
`to stimulate and satisfy
curiosity in the history
of art amongst as wide
an audience as possible'.
The team will build a
database with over
40,000 searchable ima-
ges from the Courtauld
Institute's collections
and library holdings, and
present them via a rich-
ly functional Web plat-
form, which will be free
to all users.The full fea-
ture set has yet to be
defined in detail, but the
site aims to encourage
users by providing many
different ways into and
paths through the
collections, including
easy and precise search
capabilities, subject
keyword browsing and
link traversal. As well as
the images themselves,
the platform will cap-
ture the expertise of
Courtauld staff in the
interpretation of art
history, through stories
and features, presentati-
ons and online debates.
A further section of the
site will concentrate on
user-generated material,
encouraging contributions from individuals, instituti-
ons, clubs and societies of all kinds.
34
DigiCULT
COURTAULD INSTITUTE OF ART
I
n June 2001, the New Opportunities Fund (NOF)
(www.nof.org.uk) awarded the Courtauld Institute
a one million pound grant for its Art and Archi-
tecture project.
4
Of the 154 digitisation projects
funded by NOF, the Courtauld's award is the largest
made to a university, and the largest in support of the
visual arts.
5
The set-up phase of the project will run
for two years; there is a commitment to keep the resul-
ting online resources up and running for a further
three years; and of course it is anticipated that Art and
Architecture will become a permanent and essential
feature of the Courtauld Institute's life as a centre for
art historical studies. Art and Architecture employs
seven full-time staff, with a further five on part-time
secondment from the Institute. NOF supports the
creation of digital learning resources for `lifelong lear-
ners', who could be anyone from primary and secon-
dary schoolchildren to students, teachers and acade-
mics, as well as people with a special passion for a par-
THE ART AND ARCHITECTURE PROJECT
BUILDING A CENTRAL
DIGITAL REPOSITORY
A
lthough the specific commitment to NOF is
to produce a Web resource, it was clear to
Project Director Giles O'Bryen, whose back-
ground is in content management for commercial
book and magazine publishers, that this was an oppor-
tunity to take a broader view of the value of digitised
content.`The future of services delivered to desktop
1
British Council:
Courtauld Institute of Art -
Overview of the institution
(2000), www.britishcouncil.
org/eis/profiles/ecs00108/
2
See the Courtauld section in
the Somerset House virtual
tour: www.somerset-house.
org.uk/virtual/courtauld.html
3
James Cuno ends 11-year
tenure: HUAM director is
appointed to Courtauld
Institute. In: Harvard
University Gazette, June 13,
2002, www.news.harvard.
edu/gazette/2002/06.13/
05-cuno.html
4
NOF: www.nof-digitise.org
(see: Project grants)