Working title: Digital Approaches to the History of Art and Architecture Online

Drawing on tools and methodologies from the fields of art history and digital humanities, my thesis explores potential of digital approaches to the history of art and architecture online, such as Thematic Research Collections (hereafter referred to as TRCs) and aims to establish best practice for creating and evaluating such resources.

It is important for History of Art and Architecture as disciplines based on visual sources to embrace digital technologies in their research practice. Creating TRCs enables interdisciplinary research, which often crosses the boundaries between arts, humanities, sciences and computer science. Moreover, this approach is increasingly in demand, partly due to the nature of digital humanities and its growing impact across academic disciplines. If fully exploited and utilised, TRCs enable innovative ways of research and dissemination. Furthermore, open-ended online resources like this offer great potential for the application of several different research methods and outputs, such as text, images, digital mapping and visualisations, 3D models, animations, virtual worlds and many more.

However, the growth of art-historical TRCs has not been matched by the development of guidelines, standards and evaluation criteria devised by art historians. Unlike text-based digital scholarly editions in digital humanities, most TRCs currently do not offer high-level accountability and evaluation of digital tools and methodologies used in the research process itself. This lack of information about the dynamics of research processes, means of research and documentation significantly undermines credibility of TRCs in art-historical research. Some improvement in providing this advice is now essential in order to develop and accommodate digital methods in History of Art and Architecture research.

This study will play a significant role in this development and fill the gap between art history and digital humanities research methods. This research has a number of aims and objectives, but the main questions this research will seek to answer are:

  • How to embed TRCs in the research culture of art history?
  • What should TRCs consist of in order to add value to art-historical research?
  • What digital humanities methodologies are needed in order to use to achieve that?
  • How can we use TRCs to communicate the research process, rather than just disseminate its conclusions?
  • What scholarly requirements should art historical TRCs meet?

In order to test the digital methodologies proposed by this study, I will build an art-historical TRC, test a number of digital tools and methods, and document and evaluate the research process and its dynamics. This test case will help me to develop and evaluate both conceptual and technical understandings of best practice in the design of art-historical TRCs, as well as identify both positive and negative scenarios.

The case study will be based on 17th-century church interior paintings of the Oude Kerk in Delft in the Netherlands.

The art-historical and architectural aspects of the corpus create an opportunity to investigate and evaluate a variety of image-based tools and methodologies that would demonstrate inter-disciplinary benefits of digital methodologies in art history and architectural research.



Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft | A visualisation based on vantage points of the paintings of the church interior.

Groundplan: Oude en Nieuwe Kerk Delft