Museum Catalogues Finally Trade Paper for Pixels

The OSCI makes museum collections widely accessible. Photo: Getty Foundation

The OSCI makes museum collections widely accessible.
Photo: Getty Foundation

Time to ditch those shelves of hefty museum catalogues. In 2009, the Getty Foundation and a number of partners launched the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), a free online catalogue of the institutions’ art collections. With the addition of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries on Tuesday, the online catalogue has finally been completed.

The group of participating museums and institutions includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Seattle Art Museum, Tate, and the Walker Art Center. The group has collaborated to make their collections accessible worldwide, creating what could be characterized as an online encyclopedia of art history.

In a press release, Getty Foundation director Deborah Marrow explained the significance of the online database and the importance of the transition from print to digital: “Publishing scholarly collection catalogues is a critical part of a museum’s mission, yet printed volumes are costly to produce and difficult to update. Digital publishing presents an attractive, interactive alternative.”

The database is available both as a public resource and for research purposes. Users can access a wide variety of information such as images of artworks, information on conservation history, and educational videos and essays on artists.

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