bookshelf with ipad showing online Monet catalogue
The Getty Foundation's Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) launched in 2009 with the goals of rethinking the museum scholarly collection catalogue for the digital age and helping museums work together to transition to online publishing.

The publishing of scholarly collection catalogues is a critical part of a museum's mission. Based on meticulous research, such 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.

Print catalogues from OSCI partners
 
In the first decade of the 21st century, digital publishing offered a tantalizing alternative. With online catalogues, museums could easily update content; reach global audiences; present high-resolution, interactive images; feature video and audio content that brings the voice of the curator, conservator, or artist into the catalogue space; and provide researchers with customized tools to take notes and post comments to be shared with others.

To meet this vision, the Foundation invited eight museums to work together as they developed online catalogues for their respective institutions: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; 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 initiative began with research and planning grants, before moving into implementation support to build the catalogues. Throughout the multi-year initiative, project teams came together to collaboratively solve problems both conceptual and technological, including how to address scholars' expectations for trustworthy information and how to create responsive design that enables optimal display on multiple viewing devices. In the process, participating museums learned that online publishing is not business as usual; it requires rethinking long-held assumptions about research, writing, publishing, and organizational structure.

The digital world was very different when OSCI began. For instance, the iPad had not yet been released. Yet by the time OSCI ended in 2017, each museum had completed its own OSCI catalogue, distinctive in character and suited to the needs of its own institution, and had new publications in process or already completed. The OSCI publications also garnered numerous honors and awards and received formal publication reviews through the CAA Art Bulletin.

Screenshots from OSCI publications


Learn More

Read the Final Report

Browse the OSCI catalogues

Read reviews of OSCI catalogues in the Art Bulletin

Watch a short video about OSCI


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Press and Publicity

Top image: Art Institute of Chicago's OSCI publication displayed on a iPad. Artwork pictured: Cliff Walk at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas; 66.5 x 82.3 cm (26 1/8 x 32 7/16 in.) Signed and dated: Claude Monet 82 (lower right corner, in red paint). The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1933.443.
Bottom image: Screenshots of OSCI interactive online catalogues from National Gallery of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Seattle Art Museum.