ROM-ing The Art World: Digital Image Center Serves Undergraduate Courses
UVa Alumni News Article, Vol. 82, No. 2, Jan/Feb 1994; Page 19
Think back to your art history class. The lights go down; the lecture begins; slides of art flash onto the screen. Most of the images are in your textbook, but many are not—and somehow you're expected to remember not only the pictures but also the artists, the dates, their significance. Traditionally professors have addressed this problem by posting prints in Fayerweather Hall, but space there is limited.
Now, technology has come to the rescue. This past fall, undergraduates in Judith Wilson's survey course on African art had access to nearly 600 images with just a click of a mouse, thanks to the new Digital Image Center in the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library.
At the center's Macintosh work stations, students browsed at their own speed through high-resolution reproductions of textiles, jewelry, sculpture, architecture and other works of art from a variety of African cultures, each accompanied by notes about the object's origin. Students could explore themes and motifs by searching the data base for works with certain characteristics, and they could even hide the identification information to test themselves.
"The quality of the digitized images is astonishing," said Ms. Wilson, who has taught art history at the University for three years. "In some cases, the center staff members have actually corrected the color of my slides and have given the students a better image than what they see in class. Students can review what they've seen, can use the computer to compare images and can better prepare for exams in which they are asked to identify images."
Christie Stephenson (Grad '74), coordinator of the Digital Image Center, believes it will help undergraduates improve their ability to understand visual information. "We also think it will open new avenues for undergraduate scholarly research in art history and encourage greater creativity among students," said Ms. Stephenson, who would like to build a visual archive to support research and teaching in other humanities courses.
Eventually students and faculty will have access to the center's images from their dorm rooms, offices and classrooms and will have the ability to download the images into papers and scholarly articles.
Now, if they could only show art in class without turning off the lights ...