A Digital Home for Homeless Artworks, in collaboration with metaLAB (at) Harvard

October 3, 2013
Detail of a mythological scene.

In an exciting new venture, the Berenson Library is partnering with metaLAB (at) Harvard, a research and teaching unit dedicated to pioneering initiatives in the digital humanities, to create a dynamic, interactive, free-standing database and web portal for the library’s collection of Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance.

Records and images of the over 11,000 works of “lost” art in this collection, documented by more than 16,000 photographs, are currently accessible only through Harvard’s HOLLIS Images catalog.  By the end of the summer of 2013, the metaLAB team will have created a dedicated web-based platform that transforms the database of “homeless” images into a state-of-the-art “animated archive.”  This new research tool, we hope, will serve as a prototype and model for other collections of lost or unidentified archives or artworks.  The project is generously supported by the De Bosis Fund of Harvard and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The new web portal will allow students, teachers, researchers, collectors, dealers, and other visitors to “do things” with the Homeless Paintings collection:  to annotate, curate, and augment works within and beyond the collection; to construct sharable media-rich stories and elaborate arguments about individual items as well as groups of items. The project will support and enliven teaching in art history, museum studies, and a host of other fields. Beyond missing Renaissance art, the platform prototyped here will be extensible to teaching, exhibition work, and crowdsourced “citizen scholarship” across the arts and humanities.

The project will culminate in a Fall course at Harvard (inviting participation beyond Harvard’s gates) to research, curate, interpret—and perhaps even locate—lost works of the Italian renaissance.

If you’re interested in teaching, curating, or otherwise working with the platform, you can check in at metaLAB’s recent Facebook post about the project, or send an email to the team at info@metalab.harvard.edu.