Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


Art History Webmasters, As a listserv and Organization

Robert Derome, University of Quebec - Montreal, Canada

Art History Webmasters Association (AHWA)

Paul Gauguin, D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?, 1897, huile sur toile,139 x 375 cm, Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Information on copyright for this image:

Who are we? In February 1999.

A wide range of associations have joined us.

primarily le Comité international d'histoire de l'art (CIHA), which is the most important international organisation in our Art History; national associations in the United States (Association for Art History), in England (Association of Art Historians) and in France (Mission pour l'Institut national d'histoire de l'art) are also members, as is the Société des musées québécois which comprises most of the museums and specialists in museology in Québec, and the Visual Resources Associations.

Originally, only webmasters could join our group. In the fall of 1998 we have opened our membership to several new members' categories:

  • AHI -Art History Institution - Institutions en histoire de l'art

  • AHW - Art History Webmaster - Webmestre en histoire de l'art

  • AHLA - Art History Listserv Administrator - Administrateur de liste de discussion en histoire de l'art

  • AH - Art Historian - Historien de l'art

  • AHRP - Art History Related Professionnal - Professionnel oeuvrant dans un domaine connexe

  • AHS - Art History Student - Étudiant en histoire de l'art

  • AW - Affiliated Webmaster - Webmestre affilié

Our recent subscription campaign, from december 1998 to february 1999, has brought a wealth of new members who can fully contribute to the Association's activities and goals.

Our members come from 22 countries.

Afrique, Argentina, Australia, Belgique, Brasil, Canada, China, Deutschland, France, Finlande, Greece, México, Nederland, Russia, Spain, Suisse, Sverige, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Our members represent

Our members mainly come from universities, colleges, museums (some national museums, of which one is entirely virtual), libraries, discussion lists, private enterprises, as well as independent art historians.

The AHWA-AWHA is bilingual (English, French)

Because our members share different languages, each page heading attaches our disciplinary name in several languages:

Kunsthistorische. Kunstgeschichte. Kunstwissenschaft. Storia delle arti. Historia del Arte. Historià de l'Art. Ciències Històriques i Teoria de les Arts. Kunstgeschiedenis. Kunsthistorisk. Konsthistorisk. Kunsthistorie.

Where do we come from?

The AHWA, the UQÀM Art History site, and Robert Derome's personal site came together in response to two complementary needs. When the Art History Department of the UQÀM asked Robert Derome to make the departmental website, he took the opportunity also to meet the growing demand for a collection of research methodologies and tools which the new technologies could make available to B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. students.

A preliminary investigation was carried out in order to evaluate the existing resources on the web. After visiting many sites, several facts emerged:

  1. From 1995-1997, the web had literally exploded with regard to the history of art.

  2. Many institutions and professors were proposing web references without taking account of scholarly norms concerning bibliography or library resources. That continues today.

  3. Many university departments were using the web as a strictly internal communication tool.

  4. There was no attempt to co-ordinate the real use of the web in international and global terms.

  5. Webmasters had become a key element in project facilitation. They were the ones who held the means of contact and communication with everyone in their community.

Who are we?

Existing tools we have developed

These facts led to the creation of the following research and communication tools:
  1. Art History Webmasters Association

  2. Index of Art History Departments' Websites around the World

  3. Index of Art History Courses on the Web

  4. Signets en histoire de l'art pour la recherche sur internet (Bookmarks of Favorite links)

  5. The Methods of Art History, A Collective Website

  6. Listserv on the Methods of Art History

Where are we going? AHWA and the History of Art

We are working to encourage critical analysis of the intellectual and social contribution of research, and research training in the Humanities (including projects and events).

Constructing a universal communications structure between the art history webmasters at different universities remains the heart of the educational project for the foreseeable future. The gap between the humanities is inevitably closing, and the exchange between them is increasing, both within Academe and among the general public. The new technologies have established increasingly close co-operation between research and communication, which forces new global modes of thinking on us. AHWA wishes to participate to this movement.

We are working to establish the state of research as well as specific projects and strengths (including conceptual and methodological approaches).

The AHWA is the best way to direct common international goals stimulated by the new technologies. Thanks to its many high caliber members, the AHWA has the capacity to focus relevantly on communications problems and to meet professional needs collectively. Copyright permissions, exchanges of ideas, and setting up flexible and specialised services, are among the facilities that an association like our own can organise.

We are considering the purposes and future challenges of research and of the spread of information relative to it (including the definition of intellectual enterprise and research priorities, innovative methods and structures, the sharing of findings, and training of researchers).

Annual meetings of art history webmasters could establish exciting initiative concerning technological possibilities and their uses in the field. The history of art is at the center of a multitude of activities,whether educational, cultural, museological, social or touristic, each with its idiosyncracies of research and presentation. Future consideration and initiatives around these aspects of human life will demand a flexibility that an association like the AHWA already envisages and for which it has a determining role to play.

Where are we going? AHWA and research development.


In passing from print to electronics as principle source of communication, Academe has been enriched by a medium which had previously been limited to a few pure scientists. This communications revolution is especially relevant to the History of Art whose visual and intellectual materials are among the most dispersed in the world. In this respect, one has only to think of the collections in world museums with each his own separate fragment of the work of an Old Master, for example. This real-world museum practice is a major constraint against the intellectual completeness which our science requires. The integration of the new technologies can become, in this fragmented world, a natural means of development which not only corrects this state of affairs but increases the possible exploitation of these intellectual resources.


By redefining those who are already part of the great community of technologically interested people as Art History Webmasters, we can make their real needs clear while working on the most productive methods of exchange. The webmaster thus becomes the keystone of the whole communications structure between the institutions he or she represents and the interested person, and hence a world resource. The webmaster is, properly speaking, the intelligent interface who will make the full consolidation of Art Historical approaches possible. Moreover, technological development is so rapid that a collective vigilance and punctual exchange is becoming a constant necessity. Information and communication thus come together to create a new interactive structure in the worldwide intellectual heritage of Art History.

Where are we going? Several issues.

These issues related to art history were edited from members' emails.

Shared facilities

  • Creation and maintenance of shared facilities.

Professional recognition of web work

by peers and juries, relating to maintenance of a web site and for professional publications in art history.

Art History Departments

  • Web sites of Art History Departments.

  • Teachers.

  • Programs.

  • Courses.

  • Slides versus digital imaging.

  • Web links to other sites.

  • Low interest of colleagues towards internet activities and possibilities.

Web sites

  • Processes of maintaining and constructing.

  • New sites and projects on a very large variety of subjects.

  • Content within appropriate design.

  • Commercial designers of web sites.

  • Adding interactivity or self-testing features.

  • Survival of web pages.

Links to websites

  • Difficulties to be up to date on everything new.

  • Finding the time to maintain sites in an up to date fashion.

  • Professional standards for bibliographic references to the websites, similar to the one already used in paper publications.


  • Data banks of images.

  • Digitizing and indexing slide collections.

  • Copyright issues.

  • Switching from slides to digitalized images.

  • Image size versus quality.


  • Building of web sites.

  • Access to students with an access code versus general access to everyone through the web.

  • Syllabi.

  • Images.

  • Internet in the classroom.

  • Share of web pages and images between instructors.

  • Desire, for students, to make readings/articles accessible via the web instead of photocopies!

  • Enormous success of web pages of courses for students who loved it with the result, in one university, that the failure rate among freshmen dropped to 15% instead of 40%!

  • Developing a Website on Art History Teaching and, eventually, a full Art History Virtual Program on the Web.

Data banks

  • Creation and maintenance.

  • Issues related to very large collections, v.g. : Germanisches Nationalmuseum (GNM), National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, University of California campuses.


  • General access to ongoing and new research.

  • Internet and other medias, advantages and difficulties.


Exchange of suggestions, informations and comments on: bibliographies organizations collections archives funding


Membership, promotion, communication: Association for Art History (USA) Association of Art Historians (UK) Comité international d'histoire de l'art

Discussion lists

Creation, animation and maintenance.

Where are we going? Working plan and deadline, 1999-2002.

We plan to set up organisational action in our disciplinary field in the following ways:
  1. The maintenance and development of high-performance real tools for the organisation of concepts and communications in Art History (see the list above).

  2. The formation of an international consortium of researchers to establish, in co-operation with the Getty Trust, the CIHA (Comité International d'histoire de l'art) and INHA (Mission pour l'Institut national d'histoire de l'art), permanent parameters for the new technologies and the web, equivalent to the tools which these institutions have already produced for printed documentation (for example, the BHA - Bibliography of the history of art).

  3. The use of the new technologies for teaching, research and publication in the History of Art.

  4. A development plan will be prepared for the creation of an entirely virtual teaching programme in the history of art. This work could be undertaken in alliance with the Université virtuelle or other international organisations like the Mission pour l'Institut d'histoire de l'art.

  5. Publication of studies and work on The Methods of Art History web site.

  6. The creation of a register of teachers and researchers in Art History.

Where are we going? Plans for dissemination.

All the tools already set up are intended to allow the construction and dissemination of the results of work and research in the History of Art through new technologies of information and communication.

Our association already includes several research and communication tools in its portfolio:

  1. Two discussion lists, METHO-HAR, active since Spring 1997, and AWHA founded Autumn 1997.

  2. More than 100 members from 22 countries, who disseminate information on the web in their native languages.

  3. An on-line index of about 200 university Art History departments with web sites around the world.

  4. An on-line index of around 200 websites offering Art History courses.

  5. A select list of the most important Art History websites.

  6. Lists of Art History webmasters who will eventually become members of our association.

  7. Unpublished lists of Art History professors around the world.
Through annual meetings of the AHWA, we also include in our range:
  1. In 1998, our first meeting was held at Montreal and enabled us to join the webmasters of the United States and Mexico, while also providing an opportunity for the many professors of art history from the four Montreal universities to meet.

  2. In 1999, our president will lecture under the aegis of the "Museums and the Web", which will be held at New Orleans from 11th to 14th March. We will then take the opportunity to consolidate our links and our common interests with museologists. The Association will also attend a meeting at Los Angeles from 10th to 13th February 1999, during the annual conference of the College Art Association (CAA).

  3. In the year 2000, our annual meeting will take place at London under the aegis of the quadrennial conference of the Comité international d'histoire de l'art (CIHA), around 2000 delegates will attend this event.

  4. In 2004, our annual meeting will take place at Montreal under the aegist of the quadrennial conference of the Comité international d'histoire de l'art (CIHA). Robert Derome, president of the AWHA, and Pierre Robert, secretary-treasurer of the AWHA, are on the organisational committee for this event.

  5. In addition, at our annual meetings between 2001 and 2003 in Europe and the United States, as well as other international conferences and colloquia, our members will make presentations through which our activities will be disseminated.
Elsewhere, Robert Derome has just been nominated as art historian on the Advisory Board for the creation of a website called "Issues in Humanities Computing", a consulting council of 23 international university members of diverse disciplines based at the City University of New York. This connection will improve the dissemination of information through and from the AHWA by keeping it in the context of the rest of the Humanities.
"Issues in Humanities Computing will offer a forum for the discussion of the manifold ways in which computers enhance humanists' capabilities in our two prime functions -- as researchers and as instructors -- and even create capabilities that have never existed."
Robert Derome sits on an important new committee in his university since November 1998, concerned with innovation in electronic and technological teaching applications.

Where are we going? Struggles for life and for growth.

AHWA is in the process of defining its statutes in matter to have a legal existence.

AHWA-AWHA is still the product of a few individuals. We need more implication from an enlarge membership.

AHWA-AWHA has yet no financing, any help on this matter will be welcome.

AHWA-AWHA has no permanent staff. His actions are thus still limited, based only on the spared times from volunteer members. Since most of our members are in universities, having several obligations, the time they can spare to this activity is minimal. Since several of our members are already webmasters, they already have several obligations.

The Art History on the Web is mainly an individual practice. We need to develop sharing through organized structures.

We are still looking for financing. Few grants have been asked. Any project to funding institutions could be studied to be supported by our executive committee under the name of AHWA-AWHA.


Relevant related websites

Webmestres en histoire de l'art

Index des sites web des départements d'histoire de l'art à travers le monde

Index des cours en histoire de l'art sur internet