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Art Institute of Chicago Awarded Major Grant by the Getty Foundation for Online Catalogue
The Art Institute prototype offers a truly interactive digital "reading" experience, presentation of material not possible in a printed catalogue, and a flexible interface designed with scholars in mind.

CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute of Chicago announced that the museum has been awarded $400,000 by the Getty Foundation for the implementation of an online catalogue of paintings and drawings by the artists Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The grant supports further work on the prototype developed by the Art Institute of Chicago for the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), a program begun by the Getty Foundation to bring scholarly research and publication into the digital age. The Art Institute prototype offers a truly interactive digital "reading" experience, presentation of material not possible in a printed catalogue, and a flexible interface designed with scholars in mind.

"We are extraordinarily grateful that the Getty Foundation has further committed to our work on the online catalogue with this grant," said Sam Quigley, vice president and chief information officer at the Art Institute. "The Getty Foundation not only recognizes that museums need to embrace new technology to further their mission but also provides critical support for such initiatives. We are excited to take the next steps toward bringing our online catalogue to fruition, and we look forward to the day we can offer unprecedented digital access to our research on our world-class collection."

Museums have long relied on printed collection catalogues to bring to readers and scholars the latest art historical research on the institutions' collections and exhibitions, and the Art Institute has a long history of publishing such award-winning catalogues. But increasingly, museums are also relying on digital channels--online databases, websites, mobile applications, and interactive gallery programs--to convey such research. Two years ago, the Getty Foundation funded a planning grant to investigate how the scholarly collection catalogue can best be delivered using today's emerging technologies. The Art Institute was one of the eight organizations invited to participate in this planning stage and developed this prototype in conjunction with programmers from the Indianapolis Museum of Art's IMA Lab. Now the museum has been awarded $400,000 to further realize its online catalogue to implementation.

The Art Institute's online catalogue presents basic information and state-of-the-field research on the museum's 49 paintings and 23 drawings by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The catalogue is written by Douglas Druick, the Chair and Searle Curator of the Department of Medieval through Modern European Painting and Sculpture, and Gloria Groom, the David and Mary Winton Green Curator of Nineteenth-Century European Painting in the same department, with research associate Jill Shaw. For each work, the entries present basic information, an illustrated art historical essay, comprehensive provenance, an exhibition history, selected bibliographic references, and numerous comparative illustrations. Each entry is enhanced by sections containing primary archival information on the collectors, images of all signatures and distinguishing marks, and a glossary of technical terms used in the volume. In addition, extensive reports on analytical examinations, authored by conservators Kim Muir and Kelly Keegan, will be included in the entries, providing copious technical imagery and details on support and technique, pigment analysis, and condition assessment. Thus the contents of the online catalogue will include the same scope of information one would expect to find in a printed catalogue, but in much greater quantity and depth.

The technology developed by the Art Institute and IMA Lab is the first to enable the inclusion and modes of presentation of materials not possible in a printed book and bring a true, interactive "reading" experience into digital format. For example, the online presentation offers high-resolution "zoomable" images that can be overlaid with technical x-ray and infrared images as well as annotated images that highlight significant discoveries about the under-painting.

Readers will also be able to explore primary documents in an interactive environment. A "hot spot" on the screen allows readers to flip back and forth between pages, as if holding a place in a book with a finger. The prototype also allows for highlighting text, inserting "sticky notes" to bookmark pages, and annotating the online catalogue as if writing in the margins of a book. These annotations can be tagged with key phrases and collected at any point to compile a list of similar points of interest. Paragraphs rather than pages are numbered for ease of citation, and a citation interface tool has been developed to reference the online catalogue within various established style formats.

The Getty Foundation grant will make it possible to bring the online catalogue from the prototype state into a fully realized form that brings museum publishing into the twenty-first century and will be a model for future interactive digital reading devices.

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