Pardon me while I take a minute to gush about a new site that takes a fresh approach to art history online… smARThistory.org.
smARThistory.org features a fresh open approach to both the design and the content, with great reproductions of artwork arranged by time-period, style or artist. The site is very approachable and explorable with an intuitive layout that makes it quick and easy just jump in and start clicking and exploring. The UI lets you look at lots of art very quickly, and it presents it in a way that you can quickly and intuitively see the connections and influences from one period to the next.
All this is well and good, but the intuitive UI is just the teaser… the insidious “little heroin packet”, if you will, that gets you browsing long enough to reel you in with it’s key differentiator, which is it’s content. See if this was just a well-designed site I would have probably just bookmarked it and been on my way, adding it to my long list of other sites that I appreciate but don’t visit very often. But it’s the content and the philosophy that takes this site to another level.
The site features 275 artworks and 214 informative video clips spanning 11 historical periods from Ancient Cultures to Post Colonialism. The videos are compelling and really well done; featuring candid and sometimes spirited conversations between Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Stephen Zucker, art historians and founders of the site. They’re shot on location in museums across the world and are of a very high production value, as are all of the images on the site.
To quote from the site’s About page:
“Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker began smARThistory in 2005 by creating a blog featuring free audio guides in the form of podcasts for use in The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Soon after, we embedded the audio files in our online survey courses. The response from our students was so positive that we decided to create a multi-media survey of art history web-book. We created audios and videos about works of art found in standard art history survey texts, organized the files stylistically and chronologically, and added text and still images.
We are interested in delivering the narratives of art history using the read-write web’s interactivity and capacity for authoring and remixing. … We believe that Smarthistory is broadly applicable to our discipline and is a first step toward understanding how art history can fit into the new collaborative culture created by web 2.0 technologies.”
It’s Art History with an entertaining 2.0 spirit and an NPR feel, where you’re even encouraged to submit your own additions to the site material wiki style, with tutorials that show you how to make your own rich media submissions. It stands out as an awesome example of how the web can make materials and information interesting, interactive, and compelling. So what are you waiting for? Go there…now.