The J. Paul Getty Trust 2014 Report

James Cuno
President and CEO
J. Paul Getty Trust

When J. Paul Getty established the Trust for the "diffusion of artistic and general knowledge," he could not have imagined the digital world within which we operate today. Yet the new technologies of the twenty-first century offer tremendous opportunities to carry out his generous mandate in the fullest possible way.

The Getty Trust was founded to not only do what needs to be done in the visual arts and cultural heritage field—but to do what others are not doing or are unable to do. If the Getty's contribution in the digital arena is just another website or platform, it would be a missed opportunity. The Getty should contribute to the development of the digital humanities in a fundamental and not incremental way.

Given the strength and distinction of our four programs—the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute (GRI)—the Getty is uniquely positioned to rise to the opportunities, while also addressing the challenges, facing a diverse range of humanities institutions including museums, libraries, research centers, and other cultural organizations in the digital age.

Some time ago, I outlined what the field, and the Getty, should be doing to help develop digital humanities:

  1. Take risks and do not be afraid of failing. This applies to individuals as well as institutions, including the Getty.
  2. Work across disciplinary boundaries. Cultural institutions such as the Getty are free of inherited disciplinary boundaries. This is a great opportunity.
  3. Collaborate. For us, this means collaborating across the entire Getty Trust, working in teams representative of all four Getty programs, and with colleagues from other institutions. It also means working outside our disciplines, with colleagues from the start-up community and with our users.
  4. Do cross-cultural work. We should explore polycentric knowledge formation with colleagues from the rich multiverse of our fields' many points of view.
  5. Think "constellationally." We should develop a new modality for working, what UCLA Professor and Digital Humanist Johanna Drucker calls a "constellational" modality: a means of working and publishing that is dynamic and interactive, and that embraces wide connections and deep creative thinking.
  6. Publish in the full range of forms. This ranges from the extensive and expansive to the tweetable.
  7. Make our data sets freely and broadly available. Sharing enables us all to benefit from one another's efforts.
  8. Invest in the long-term viability of our work. This means archiving and documenting projects, and planning for sustainability.

In this Trust Report for fiscal year 2014, we explore where these guidelines have taken us over the past year and foreshadow where they will lead us in the future.

You will read about how the Getty is aggressively digitizing our intellectual assets: works of art in our Museum's collections, archival materials and books in the GRI's library, and implementing the Open Content program, which provides free access to and unrestricted use of high-resolution images to which we hold all rights.

One can get similar access to books in the GRI's library, not only their cataloging information but also their content. And now, through the Getty Research Portal, readers can search digitized holdings of some of the world's leading art libraries through a single point of entry.

But of course the more international these resources become, the greater the need for the ability to search in multiple languages. For decades the GRI has been building powerful multilingual electronic thesauri designed to facilitate cataloging and documentation; to serve as lookup tools or knowledge bases; and to function as powerful search-and-retrieval tools. Now, with the advent of Linked Open Data, we are able to freely share these tools with the international cultural heritage community so that the information and semantic links in our vocabularies can be exploited in a variety of ways by institutions around the globe.

In this report you will find an update on a Getty Foundation initiative to develop online scholarly catalogues of the works of art in museum collections. The initial participating institutions have all released their first digital catalogues online. During the course of the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), the participating museums came to realize that no single system yet existed to handle the range of publishing requirements and so they developed a variety of innovative solutions. We placed no restrictions on them. We wanted to encourage innovation, not dictate solutions. And above all, we wanted the participating institutions to work together to share their ongoing developments.

We at the Getty are deeply committed to digital publications. We have begun to make full digital copies of publications from our backlist available free for download via Getty Publications' Virtual Library on our website; to date we have some 277 publications available for download. Also available are the GRI's "Introduction to" series, which deals with issues related to technology and cultural heritage, and more than one hundred publications produced by the GCI, including scientific research papers, conference proceedings, case studies, project reports and bibliographies, as well as the Abstracts of International Conservation Literature.

Most important in these research and publishing developments are efforts to exploit the electronic environment to both conduct collaborative research projects, and publish the results of that research. This allows museums and libraries to make rare and unique materials, which formerly could only be consulted in person, available to anyone with access to the Internet.

The first digital critical facsimile edition produced by the GRI is slated for publication online, free of charge, later this year. The research that supported this project was produced in the Getty Scholars' Workspace, a digital environment that the Research Institute custom built to facilitate collaborative research and knowledge sharing among scholars who are geographically separated.

Recent technological developments have encouraged their use in another kind of publication: one devised as a way to inventory and manage heritage sites in real time. The GCI identified an essential need among many of the world's cultural heritage organizations and partnered with World Monuments Fund to develop Arches, a comprehensive software platform specially designed to help inventory, manage, and protect the world's immovable cultural heritage. Using the latest semantic technologies, the system is open source and is freely available for cultural heritage organizations to independently implement and, if necessary, customize. Arches incorporates a broad range of international standards, which promote sharing and longevity of data regardless of inevitable technological advances.

These are but a few of the many important and exciting projects detailed in this report that the Getty has focused on during the past fiscal year.

I also extend my thanks to two special contributors in this report who provided essays on the digital humanities to provide a global context to what is taking shape in the field and to add points of reflection on the future potential for the advancement of knowledge. They are Johanna Drucker, a UCLA professor and digital humanist, and Internet theorist Jeffrey Schnapp of Harvard.

Through internal program partnerships, the support of field-wide initiatives, strategic applications of new technologies to problems significant to our disciplines, and the provision of truly open access to our data and resources, the Getty has a clear leadership role in the digital humanities. This role will continue to grow and evolve along with ever-changing technologies.