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Artstor is a non-profit organization that builds and distributes the Digital Library, an online resource of 1.8 million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences, and Shared Shelf, a Web-based cataloging and image management software service that allows institutions to catalog, edit, store, and share local collections.


Since 2003, the organization has been an independent non-profit 501(C)(3) organization based in New York, and operates under the leadership of President James Shulman, in collaboration with Neil Rudenstine (Chairman) and the Artstor Board of Trustees.[1]

In the late 1990s, as universities and libraries began to convert their slide libraries into local digital image databases, Artstor was created to address the growing need for a shared online image library that would be accessible to educational institutions worldwide. The Artstor Digital Library is intended to reduce redundant efforts of scanning and cataloging thousands of the same images from multiple repositories, and also to enable new digital image collections to be shared for teaching and research. The initiative paired innovative digital image and online technologies with Mellon Foundation’s ongoing mission to support higher education, museums, the arts, and art conservation to “bring about a substantial transformation in art-related teaching, learning, and research.”[2]

Artstor's primary goals as an organization are: to assemble image collections from across many time periods and cultures; to create an organized, central, and reliable digital resource that supports strictly non-commercial use of images for research, teaching and learning; and to work with the arts and educational communities to develop collective solutions for building, managing and sharing digital images for educational use. Like many non-profits, Artstor has a mixed business model; some services are provided on a fee basis (geared toward the size of the subscribing institution) and others are provided free of charge to the community.

Digital Library[edit]

The Artstor Digital Library includes a set of software tools to view, present, and manage images for research and teaching purposes. There are currently more than 1,500 Artstor institutional subscribers in over 40 countries,[3] including colleges and universities, museums, libraries, primary and secondary schools, and other non-profit organizations. The Artstor Digital Library offers a wide range of images needed for interdisciplinary teaching and research, including contributions from the leading museums, photo archives, libraries, scholars, photographers, artists, and artists’ estates. These diverse collections include: Magnum Photos, Carnegie Arts of the United States, The Illustrated Bartsch, the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive, The Huntington Archive of Asian Art, and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Architecture and Design Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bodleian Library, and more.[4]

The Digital Library comprises more than one million images from hundreds of collections worldwide. The Digital Library is continually expanded by new contributions such as: Mark Rothko Estate; Latin American Art (Cisneros Collection); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA); Christopher Roy: African Art and Architecture; Berlin State Museums; the Gernsheim Corpus of Master Drawings (185,000 images of old master drawings); []Larry Qualls]] Archive (100,000 images documenting 30 years of New York City gallery exhibitions); architectural photography from Esto, Canyonlights and ART on FILE; university collections from Harvard and Yale; and historical photo archives such as the National Gallery of Art and Frick Art Reference Library, among many others.

Artstor’s collections are useful for learning and research within the arts, as well as in other disciplines. For example, in February 2009 the Artstor and Magnum Photos collaboration added 80,000 contemporary photographs of iconic world events and people by world-renowned documentary photographers. Artstor serves as a valuable resource for students and teachers in disciplines including African-American Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, Asian Studies, Classical Studies, History, Medieval Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Music History, Native American Studies, Religious Studies, Renaissance Studies, and Women’s Studies.[5]


Material is available to download to participating nonprofit institutions.[6] ARTstor requires a non-exclusive license for material submitted to ARTstor. This allows the copyright owner to retain rights to distribute images through other media. The high-resolution versions of the images are encrypted using FlashPix, allowing download and printing only of relatively low-resolution images (1024 pixels along the maximum dimension). ARTstor requires that contributions be made available on a perpetual basis.

Apart from free 30-day trials and online demonstrations,[7] access to the Artstor material requires a subscription.[8]

Tools and features

Artstor users have the ability to search, organize, present, upload, and share images. In addition to keyword and advanced searching, users may browse works by geography, classification, or collection name. Users can zoom in on high-resolution images in the image viewer and review related information in image data records. They can also export images for use in classroom presentations and other non-commercial, educational uses, either as JPEGs, or presentations for PowerPoint 2007. Artstor has also developed the Offline Image Viewer (OIV), an alternative tool for giving offline classroom presentations. OIV allows users to download much larger images from Artstor, combine Artstor images with their own content to create digital slide show presentations that feature side-by-side comparisons, zooming and panning, and the ability to customize text on the slides. OIV enables instructors to give reliable classroom presentations using both high-resolution Artstor images and local content without being connected to the Internet.[9] The Artstor Digital Library is accessible through Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android-powered devices, providing read-only features such as searching and browsing, zooming, and viewing saved image groups.[10]

Shared Shelf[edit]

Artstor also provides Shared Shelf, a Web-based cataloging and digital media management software service that allows institutions to catalog, edit, store, and share local collections. Shared Shelf, which was launched in 2011, enables local collections to be seamlessly hosted alongside the collections and tools in the Artstor Workspace.[11] Shared Shelf provides a networked platform and tools that make it possible to easily integrate and update hosted institutional collections. Shared Shelf will also enable institutions to nominate their collections to be included in the Artstor Digital Library.[12] Artstor has worked closely with nine institutional partners to develop this service: Bard College, Colby College, Cornell University, Harvard University, Middlebury College, New York University, Society of Architectural Historians, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Miami, and Yale University.[13] Shared Shelf’s cataloging tools provide both simple and complex metadata entry screens that can be further customized for expert and non-expert cataloging.[14] The tools include a vocabulary warehouse that provides integrated access to third-party controlled vocabularies, such as the Getty’s Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names, Art and Architecture Thesaurus, and others. All new candidate terms will be contributed to the Getty Vocabularies. Shared Shelf allows institutions to easily publish their digital assets and data to various outlets; images may be hosted in the Artstor Workspace and restricted to a particular institution or group of institutions, or made publicly accessible in open-access websites, such as Shared Shelf Commons.[15] Shared Shelf also remotely stores and backs up high-resolution source images.[16]

Other initiatives[edit]

As part of Artstor's mission of using digital technologies to further education, scholarship, and research worldwide, the organization collaborates with other institutions in the community to offer a number of services, many of them free.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

Through a collaboration with Artstor, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is providing free access to more than 10,000 high-quality images and data records from six leading museums: the Dallas Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.[17]

Images for Academic Publishing (IAP)

Artstor’s Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program makes available publication-quality images for use in scholarly publications free of charge. The IAP program was initiated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 and is now available as an optional service to all museums who contribute images to the Artstor Digital Library. Scholars can access these images through the Artstor Digital Library at subscribing institutions or can request free access to IAP by contacting Artstor.

Current IAP contributors include Frank Cancian (University of California, Irvine) (forthcoming), Dallas Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Mellink Archive (Bryn Mawr College), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Northwestern University Library, Princeton University Art Museum (forthcoming), the Walters Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery.[18]

Built Works Registry (BWR)

Artstor and the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University are collaborating on the creation of the Built Works Registry (BWR), a community-generated data resource for architectural works and the built environment. The BWR’s goal is to create the system and tools to enable the gathering and widespread dissemination of a large and growing body of built works information. It will serve scholars, students, educators, librarians, and catalogers from academic and cultural heritage organizations worldwide, and will be openly accessible to the general public. The project is supported by a three-year National Leadership grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The Getty Research Institute (GRI), nine other institutions, and an international advisory board will also participate throughout the three-year project development cycle. BWR data will be contributed to the Getty Vocabulary Program’s Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA) and will be a critical component to the controlled vocabulary warehouse in Shared Shelf.[19]

Society of Architectural Historians Architecture Resources Archive (SAHARA)

The SAH Architecture Resources Archive (SAHARA), a dynamic online library of architectural and landscape images for research and teaching, is a collaboration among The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), scholars of architectural history, librarians, and Artstor. Funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SAHARA's aim is to facilitate the sharing of digital content that will advance the teaching, research, and preservation of architecture and the built environment. Artstor serves as SAHARA's technology partner, developing the software tools to enable the uploading, downloading, cataloging, and sharing of images in an online environment. Scholars at SAHARA partner institutions (Brown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Virginia), as well as independent photographers and architectural historians, provided the content for SAHARA's initial launch in April 2009. Librarians and visual resources staff at the three institutions worked closely with the contributors to ensure that the high-quality images were accompanied with accurate cataloging information. The aim of SAHARA is to become encyclopedic in scope, presenting images of our built world from every corner of the globe.[20]

EMET (Embedded Metadata Extraction Tool)

EMET is a software tool that is freely available for download as a stand-alone application.[21] EMET is intended to facilitate management and preservation of digital images and their incorporation into external databases and applications. EMET was created by Artstor through funding from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). For programmers interested in reviewing and customizing the code, EMET is also available as an open source application on SourceForge.[22]


  1. ^ "The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: President’s Report, 2003.". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  2. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (2001-04-05). "Departing Harvard Leader to Organize Digital Art.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  3. ^ "Current Participating institutions". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  4. ^ "ARTstor Collection descriptions & status". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  5. ^ "Subject guides". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  6. ^ "Artstor Digital Library Contributor's Guide". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  7. ^ "Trial access". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  8. ^ ARTstor subscriptions include an Archive Capital Fee and an Annual Access Fee. The Archive Capital Fee (ACF) is a one-time fee that supports the long-term stability of the Digital Library, enabling Artstor to upgrade the content and tools for accessing the images as technology evolves. The Annual Access Fee (AAF) is the yearly participation fee that supports the annual costs of Artstor’s services an ongoing image and metadata production.
  9. ^ "Access Artstor-anywhere, anytime". Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  10. ^ "ARTstor Mobile-Artstor Help". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  11. ^ "Shared Shelf is Launched!". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  12. ^ "Shared Shelf Overview". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  13. ^ "Beta testing of Shared Shelf software". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  14. ^ "Shared Shelf". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  15. ^ "Shared Shelf Commons". Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  16. ^ "Shared Shelf Overview". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  17. ^ "ARTstor to Help Launch the Digital Public Library of America". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  18. ^ "Images for Academic Publishing (IAP)". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  19. ^ "Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library and Artstor Awarded IMLS National Leadership Grant For Built Works Registry". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  20. ^ "Society of Architectural Historians - SAHARA". Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  21. ^ "EMET: Embedded Metadata Extraction Tool". Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  22. ^ "EMET – Free software download". Retrieved 2013-06-21. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Brunning, Dennis. The Charleston Advisor Interview with ARTstor's James Shulman,” The Charleston Advisor”, Volume 13, Number 2. (2011): pp. 63–65. [1]
  • Shulman, James. Words… will not stay in place: cataloging and sharing image collections, “Art Libraries Journal”, vol. 36, no. 32. (2011): 25-32. PDF
  • Kuan, Christine. A Question of Practice: The Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings in the ARTstor Digital Library. Master Drawings, vol. 48, no. 3 (2010): 374-9. PDF
  • Kuan, Christine. ARTstor: Collections and the New Curatorial Workspace. Paper presented at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Pre-Conference at the Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy (2009). PDF
  • Rockenbach, Barbara and Carole Ann Fabian. Visual Literacy in the Age of Participation. Art Documentation. 27: 2 (2008): 26-31. PDF
  • Wagner, Gretchen. Who Owns this Image? Art, Access and the Public Domain after Bridgeman v. Corel. Images, the Newsletter of the VRA 5, no. 3 (June 2008)
  • Wagner, Gretchen. Sharing visual arts images for educational use: Finding a new angle of repose. Educause Review 42, no. 6 (2007): 84-104.
  • Marmor, Max. The ARTstor Digital Library: A case study in digital curation. Paper presented at DigCCurr2007, Chapel Hill, NC (2007). PDF
  • Rockenbach, Barbara. ARTstor: A Cross-Campus Digital Image Library. Art Library Journal 31, no. 3 (2007): 42-45.
  • Marmor, Max. Six lessons learned: an (early) ARTstor retrospective.? RLG DigiNews 10 no. 2 (April 15, 2006).
  • Arenson, Karen W. (August 14, 2004). "For Art History Scholars, Illumination is a Click Away". New York Times. 
  • "Departing Harvard Leader to Organize Digital Art". New York Times. April 5, 2001. 
  • Mirapaul, Matthew (May 22, 2003). "Far-Flung Artworks, Side by Side Online". The New York Times. 

External links[edit]