B.C. Chosen As Test Site For Virtual Art Library

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Boston College scholars will be among the first to have access to a "virtual library" of paintings and sculptures when the University serves as a trial site this fall for a new online archive of art slides from leading museums across North America.

The University is one of 20 institutions participating in a test of the archive during the 1998-99 academic year, when 20,000 high-resolution images are to be made available online by the Art Museum Image Consortium, a not-for-profit coalition of 23 prominent art museums in the United States and Canada.

Plans call for the online library to be made available under license to all higher education institutions in the 1999-2000 academic year, with between 5,000 and 10,000 images being added per year.

"Digitization and the Internet are allowing scholars to access, from their desktops, materials they normally would have had to travel miles to see," said University Librarian Jerome Yavarkovsky. "This is an opportunity to have a vast collection of fine art images at your desktop."

Yavarkovsky called the online archive project "significant for scholarship generally - and significant for Boston College in that we will have a role in determining how the resource will be perfected for others to use."

Boston College was chosen as a test site for the online archive after a bid was filed by Yavarkovsky and Assoc. Prof. Jeffery Howe (Fine Arts), chairman of the Boston College Arts Council. The archive will be available to users on the campus computer network through a link on the Boston College Libraries' World Wide Web site .

Howe said he plans to work with College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program Director Adj. Assoc. Prof. Mark O'Connor to explore the archive's potential as a teaching resource.

"The images could be projected in class, or used for review by students," said Howe. "It's a tremendous boost for students to see the images they're required to learn. It sounds kind of obvious, but they haven't had that access."

For the past few years, Howe has maintained his own archive of some 2,000 art images on his BC web page, but legal restrictions have limited him to non-copyrighted images or photos he has shot himself. He said the new online venture dispenses with the copyright problem, since the museums themselves are involved with the images' licensing.

Galleries participating in the online art consortium include the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and 20 others. Other institutions chosen as test sites for the archive include Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities and Wellesley College.

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