Introduction to Digital Art History

Digital tools facilitated scholars’ research; thus, serval disciplines, including Art History, integrated it into their field. In the last few years, art historians have utilized digital tools in their research, so many digital art history projects have developed. nonprofits and educational institutions, such as the National Endowment of Humanities (NEH), financially support the digital art history project. In addition, new art history journals and conferences were established, which implies that digital tools have played a substantial role in transforming the field. Art history depends on visual analytics methods, so converting to the digital field is logical.

The author addressed in her article how digital technology has dramatically transformed art history.[1] Digital art history has opened the door for research, especially global research. Scholars can benefit from the field and conduct research without seeing the study object. The author recommended that to expand the field of digital art history, digital technology should be part of the Art history curriculum, and students should be trained in using digital tools in art history, such as data analysis and data visualization.[2] The author addressed that digital technology has changed the field of art history, especially in teaching techniques. In the past, the instructors mainly relied on lectures and seminars to transfer the information to the students. Today, software and data are the primary tools for digital art history. These tools may need extra time and effort to be understood. [3]That means digital art history needs new methods, such as new formats and frameworks, to help students understand the field. Harald Klinke suggested that students learn through workshops and collaborate in research and projects.[4] Harald Klinke is right on this point, as digital art history requires more effort and time for its project. Art historians may need to collaborate with other professionals from different disciplines, especially information science, to help art historians analyze the data better.

Digital art history has not only changed the way the field has been taught but also changed the role of instructors. Today, art history educators are not the primary sources for the students because instructors need to learn more about this software. Besides, each web and software have tutorials to learn. Now, educators are limited to organizing the class and introducing the software and principal to the students. Educators help students conduct their research using digital tools. I agree that students can learn about different software from their tutors, which is more accessible for students, such as ArcGIS. Most of the tutorials are available for students and online. The role of instructors is still crucial for students because sometimes these tutorials are not clear enough to be understood. Digital technology also changes how the art history department operates. Instead of relying on libraries, they are depending on computers and software. In addition, the integration of technology changed our understanding of the field, and the field became interdisciplinary. The author adds that the field has changed periodically. Art historians deal with objects and books. In addition to that they now digital art historians work with Data and on computers. Of course, using technology will benefit the field, especially for restoring and comparing data. Kinkle focused her article on the effect of digital technology in education and academia. I believe it would be better if the article discussed how technology makes art history more accessible than before, and the public can also benefit from it.

On the other hand, Paul B. Jaskot argues we can use digital methods to analyze art history. Does art impact society, or does society affect art? The author argues that you can say something about society by studying art.[5] Paul B. Jaskot believes that digital methods create a new argument for social art history.[6] For example, the digital tool helps to discover vital subjects of the discipline of art history.

The authors give examples of digital art history projects such as Digital Storytelling, Text-based, Network analysis, and Spatial analysis. He believed combining these methods could create a tremendous digital history project. This article explains the role of the community in addressing the art history field. Digital Art History provides ways to make the field reachable to audiences. Now, people can learn about art objects from their homes. The public now has digital access to global art, which benefits those who cannot travel. Digital art history has become in demand in the last few years, especially after the pandemic. For example, when museums and cultural institutions shut down. Digital exhibits became the only tools for museums to reach their audiences. However, funding is significant to establish a digital art history project. As Matthew Longe addressed, funding is always the problem of digital art history while working on digital art history projects.[7]

Another problem public historian faces are copyrighting and how to protect your work, as digital data can easily be stolen. In addition, digital art historians lack primary art and cultural heritage sources. I faced the same problem while creating a digital history project. Longe’s article assisted me in understanding the problem digital art historians face while using digital tools.

Besides, the limitation in understanding how to create your academic website to heighten my academic background was essential for me as a scholar. It is necessary to create a website that shows your educational background. LinkedIn could be useful. For example, a scholar from Qatar learned about my research from Linked In and contacted me for future collaboration.

Digital humanities significantly changed art history and created new research channels. It also helped the public to have a better understanding of the field. However, it is essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages of digital tools to advance the field.

[1] Harald Klinke, “The Digital Transformation of Art History,” Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Art History, ed. Kathryn Brown (Routledge, 2020), pp. 32-42.

[2] Ibid 35

[3] Ibid 36

[4] Ibid 40

[5] Paul B. Jaskot, “Digital Art History as the Social History of Art: Towards the Disciplinary Relevance of Digital Methods,” Visual Resources, 35:1-2 (2019), 21-33.

[6] Ibid 25

[7] Matthew Long, Roger C. Schonfeld, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians” (Ithaka S+R, 2014)

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