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DigiCULT 23
current public interface for the collection and has
been used mainly for demonstration purposes.
For most project partners, the ability to be in
virtually any location and use the Internet to access
the database and contribute to it using an online
form was a new experience. Many scholars worked
from multiple locations to build the descriptions.
And, in some cases, teams of scholars contributed to
common entries.These new tools and subsequent
approaches to documentation and research are
unique to the ECA project and merit further
consideration by the scholarly community.
he ECA project partners set out to virtually
reunite a collection of thousands of works of art
within their original context.The result was not only
a set of tools through which scholars could share
their expertise from any Internet access point, but
also new ways of working for scholars. A new focus
for art historical research underlined the importance
of patronage during the Renaissance as well as
helping to reveal the often times lost relationships
between objects and the people who originally
collected or commissioned them. Finally, bringing
all of this information together in five languages on
the Web offers online audiences access to a vast re-
pository of knowledge about how and why these
objects were originally created, where they currently
reside, and their connection to a city with a rich
artistic heritage.
One of the unfortunate outcomes of many
Culture 2000 projects is that the proof of concept
remains just that, proof that the idea is viable.The
ECA project is no different. Due to lack of follow-
up funds, the project has seen little progress since
the completion of the prototype phase in mid-2002.
Some work continues on the site to improve the
public interface and incorporate another documen-
tation standard; however, the potential that the site
holds for promoting new ways of bringing art
historical experts together to tell the story of
this influential family remains elusive.
[1] The ECA can be found at
The project team included a project manager, database
architect, programming team, scholars from partner
organisations, and representatives from the province of
[2] Many fine art institutions offer online access to their
collections catalogue as well as lengthy descriptions that
accompany online exhibit features such as those found on
the Website of the Hermitage Museum.Website viewed 4
December 2003, URL:
Support materials, such as those found on the Best of
History Websites, offer an overwhelming amount of
material brought together through a set of hyperlinks.
Website visited 4 December 2003, URL:
[3] Iconclass and the associated Website are maintained by the
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Getty Research
Institute provides access to its vocabularies online at
[4] Joconde, the database of the Ministère de la culture et de la
communication in France, was consulted, as were several
standards authored by the Istituto Nazionale per il Catalogo
e la Documentazione (ICCD) in Italy, and others.Websites
viewed 4 December 2003, URL: http://www.culture., and URL:
The author would like to thank Giuliana Castellari, Ferrara
Castle Museum, and Maria Elena Bonfigli, CINECA, for their
assistance with this article.
Author details:
Angela Spinazzé
ATSPIN consulting
3270 N. Lake Shore Drive, Suite 5E
Chicago, Illinois 60657 USA
Tel: +1.773.281.1515
Fax: +1.773.442.0071
Figure 3: ECA catalogue entry with image
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