Art history lovers already have several resources, like the Europeana database and Google Arts & Culture Institute, where it’s possible to view incredible art from multiple collections. And it’s possible to focus in and see masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Guggenheim, but most of these archives simply present the artwork as you’d see them if you went to the museum. What if you want to dig deeper?
That’s where Pharos comes in. This scholarly online archive has a wealth of participating institiutions—New York’s Frick Collection, London’s Courtauld Institute, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Yale Center for British Art, to name a few. With a goal to host 25 million images—17 million of them art and the rest supplemental materials—Pharos is like stepping into the research center of your favorite museum from the comfort of your own home.
And while Pharos certainly has the standard, high-resolution images of art, it’s the “extras” that really allow you to dive into the history of each piece. For instance, the Frick’s vast photoarchives—which comprise the bulk of what’s online so far—allows you to trace the history of an artwork through the years. How has it changed over time through restoration? What other images are connected to it? All these questions, which researchers typically discover by going to an institution and asking special permission to view the archives, will now be answered online.
“Users will be able to search the restoration history of the works, including different states of the same piece over time… past ownership; and even background on related works that have been lost or destroyed.” From dazzling Byzantine mosaics to ancient Roman pottery, Pharos makes art history more accessible both to scholars and art lovers around the world.
The photographic records are a fascinating look at historical research through the centuries, with supplementary materials including notations on iconography and observations by scholars. Another exciting feature is the ability to upload an image and have the database search for related artworks, something that would strip out the need for text searching. The project aims to have 7 million images online by 2020 and currently has more than 60,000 artworks and 100,000 images online today.