Art Historians, Rebuilding their Portfolios

RRCNHM hosted an enthusiastic group of 22 art historians, librarians, and museum professionals for “Rebuilding the Portfolio,” a digital art history institute sponsored by the Getty Foundation. The self-identified novice participants began the institute on July 8, 2014 nervous and worried about the workload, but emerged two weeks later as confident, digital ambassadors.

During the institute, nicknamed “bootcamp” by some of the participants, Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the cohort through an intense course designed to introduce art historians to digital humanities scholarship, methods, and tools, while also directly connecting with their own work in art history. Readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Megan Brett, Stephanie Grimes, Celeste Sharpe, and Spencer Roberts drew on their own digital work as graduate students in the history and art history program by leading demonstrations and supporting the participants in countless ways.


Rebuilding the Portfolio cohort, annotated in ThingLink by participant, Gina Tarver

Each participant registered a new web domain of their own; installed Zotero, WordPress, and Omeka; and learned to annotate, plot maps, tidy data, and visualize that data in different forms. Personal reflections of Rebuilding the Portfolio participants were aggregated and are available on the course site, with help of RRCHNM’s PressForward plugin.

We were impressed by the ways that each participant began to re-think their research projects and teaching over the course of the institute. Everyone reconsidered the ways that digital techniques might help them analyze art history sources and teach core concepts in new ways, while also thinking concretely about reaching new audiences with their scholarship.

Rebuilding the Portfolio is one of three pilot projects, supported by the Getty Foundation this summer to increase the number of professional development opportunities for training art histories in digital humanities methods.

Follow #doingdah14 to read Rebuilding the Portfolio’s conversation, and to follow UCLA’s Beyond the Digitized Slide Library institute running this week and next.

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Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. We sponsor more than two dozen digital history projects and offer free tools and resources for historians. Learn More

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