Getty Publications has just launched two born-digital collection catalogues exploring groups of ancient objects in the Museum’s collection: Ancient Terracottas from South Italy and Sicily and Roman Mosaics. These two titles inaugurate a series of dynamic, user-friendly, technologically robust digital publications focusing on the Getty collections that complement our many distinguished print publications.
Terracottas and Mosaics
The Terracottas catalogue, by Italian scholar Maria Lucia Ferruzza, highlights sixty notable objects and includes an annotated reference by Museum curator Claire L. Lyons to the more than 1,000 other such works in the collection.
The Roman Mosaics catalogue documents the Museum’s complete collection of these works and is published in conjunction with the exhibition Roman Mosaics across the Empire, now on view at the Villa. Curator Alexis Belis organized the exhibition and wrote the catalogue, which also has contributions by other scholars.
Why Digital Catalogues?
Following the Getty Foundation’s successful Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), more and more museums have been looking to digital formats for their collection catalogues. Digital formats allow for greater access, more flexibility, and interactive features not possible in print books.
Several museums that were part of the OSCI project are moving forward with yet more digital catalogues. Other museums have joined these early pioneers in exploring an expanding range of ways to make scholarly research on their collections available online. The Getty itself made an early foray into online publishing with a catalogue on ancient ambers, which was released in 2012. In short, the field is embracing digital publications, and so are we.
Both publications offer features you might expect, like zoomable high-resolution images and interactive maps. But beyond these more obvious, splashy features are a number of quieter features that we hope will make a long-term contribution to digital publishing in the humanities.
An important part of our work at the Getty is to research our collections and disseminate information about them as broadly as possible. This content should be easy to find and should be preserved over the long term. But this seemingly simple mandate is actually quite complex, raising questions such as:
- How are digital books found by readers when they live outside the traditional distribution stream, such as libraries?
- How can an online book last decades or more, when the average lifespan for a website is more often measured in months?
- What happens to a digital book when platforms and technologies inevitably change?
To address these questions, the team at Getty Publications built in four key features:
- Each of these catalogues is published in multiple formats. While the primary edition is online, you can also download PDFs, ebooks for your Kindle or iPad, and image and data sets to use in your research and teaching. And for readers who prefer print, paperback copies are also available.
- The content remains in a plain-text format and is fully accessible at the project repository (GitHub) for each publication.
- Each publication features a permanent URL, and any revisions made are carefully documented so researchers can feel comfortable citing the work, knowing that their citations will be fully verifiable down the road.
- These publications are issued under a Creative Commons license, continuing our efforts to make information available as widely as possible.
I hope you’ll explore the Terracottas and Roman Mosaics catalogues online, or will download them to dig into their rich content at your leisure. Look for more online publications in the coming months as our efforts continue!