Print catalogues from OSCI partners
 
Publishing scholarly collection catalogues is a critical part of a museum's mission. Based on meticulous research, these catalogues make available detailed information about the individual works in a museum's collection, ensuring the contents a place in art history. Yet printed volumes are costly to produce and difficult to update regularly; their potential content often exceeds allotted space. One could say they are like thoroughbred horses confined to stock pens.

Digital publishing presents an alternative, and the Getty Foundation's Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) is helping museums make the transition from printed volumes to multimedia, web-based publications freely available to anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The Foundation launched OSCI in 2009 in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum and eight other institutions: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Seattle Art Museum; Tate; and the Walker Art Center. The consortium's goals are to create models for online catalogues that will dramatically increase access to museum collections; make available new, interdisciplinary, up-to-date research; and revolutionize how this research is conducted, presented, and utilized.

Tate's OSCI publication displayed on a smartphone
Going digital requires a profound rethinking of the ways in which art historical content can be interactively organized, maintained, updated, and, ultimately, used. A host of technical, legal and administrative hurdles complicates the online delivery as many museums lack the financial, technological and human resources to tackle these complex and far–reaching issues.

OSCI Toolkit
 
From the beginning, the OSCI partners have worked together to address these and other challenges. The initiative began with research and planning grants, and now all of the partners have moved into implementation of their OSCI publications, with several already completed. In addition, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is now collaborating with the consortium to offer an online publishing "toolkit" with open-source software that can be used free of charge by other museums. Learn more about the IMA Lab's OSCI Toolkit.

 
The participating museums have made significant progress since the initiative began. Through their collective efforts, new models of scholarly publishing are coming into focus in which robust future-focused technologies make comprehensive scholarly information available in beautifully rendered formats. Readers are able to study detailed images of artworks online, overlay them with conservation documentation, discover scholarly essays in easy-to-read formats, take notes in the margins that can be stored for later use, and export citations to their desktops. Moreover, the software tools under development are being designed to be both flexible and replicable so they can support a broad variety of collections-based publications by other museums.

The Foundation released an interim report in spring 2012 to share these results with the broader art museum community and to document the lessons learned by the participating museums during the planning process. We will continue to disseminate information about new OSCI publications as they are released.

Zoom view of <i>Collection</i> from SFMOMA's OSCI publication

Learn More

Browse released OSCI catalogues

Read about OSCI in the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 Museum Edition (pages 19-22)

Watch a short intro about OSCI

Hear OSCI partners discuss technical challenges

Read the Interim Report

Read a paper on the National Gallery's OSCI catalogue from CODART, 2013

Read a paper on SAM's OSCI catalogue from Museums and the Web ASIA, 2013

Presentations from Museums and the Web, 2011

See a list of participating museums and their grant–funded projects

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Press and Publicity

Top image: Tate's OSCI publication displayed on a smartphone. Artwork pictured: Leeds Market, Harold Gilman, c. 1913. Oil on canvas, 508 x 610 cm. Presented by the Very Revererend E. Milner White 1927. Tate No4237. Photo: Tate
Bottom image: SFMOMA's OSCI catalogue zoom window showing detail of Robert Rauschenberg's Collection (1954-55). Image courtesy SFMOMA