Summer Institute Zurich - Digital Collections. New Methods and Technologies for Art History, 4-14 September 2016, Switzerland

Publish Date: Mar 23, 2016

Deadline: Apr 10, 2016

Event Dates: from Sep 04, 2016 12:00 to Sep 14, 2016 12:00

Collecting, storing, and displaying aesthetic objects have been fundamental practices in art history since its very beginnings. While museums and collections hold the primary artifacts of art history, archives and public institutions safeguard the relevant sources allowing art historians to understand the intellectual, historical, political, and sociological context of both individual works of art and entire collections. For centuries, printed catalogues and handwritten inventories provided authoritative and mostly unique access to entire collections of art works, literally representing their holdings. Likewise, photographic reproductions became substitutes for aesthetic objects in print, in catalogues, and other media. They allowed art historians to establish relations between somehow connected, but distant works of art.

The digital age has dramatically changed the way we obtain information regarding individual works of art and historical sources as well as entire collections, archives and museums. Specialized information in printed catalogues and research publications is competing with more general information from various sources, thus challenging the authority of museums, archives, and academic institutions alike. Under the impact of new technologies, the continuous de- and re-contextualization of digital information might not only change the practices of art historical perception and thinking. The ubiquitous availability of digital images might also challenge the notion of collecting, of the museum and the archive, and not least of objecthood itself. Despite the impact of the digital age and its rapidly changing technologies, art history has not yet changed its fundamental practices and methods when it comes to research regarding collection-based data. Nor has art history as a discipline established new methods for a critical assessment of digital sources.

The Summer Institute on Digital Art History, Zurich 2016, aims at combining reflections on the methodologies and theories of digital art history with a practical hands-on experience. Participants will learn about recent debates and key concepts in digital art history and the digital humanities at large and will gain hands-on experience with research tools and techniques for art historical research. This includes Accessing, Organising and Analysing Digital Collections, Building Digital Collections and Digital Research Tools, Annotation and Re-Use of Collection Data, Data Mining and Researching Historic Archives, Spatial History, Visual Pattern Discovery, Digital Publishing and Scholarly Communication, and Visualising Research History.



The course duration is 11 days. Arrival in Zurich will be on Sunday, September 4, 2016 (around noon), departure from Zurich is scheduled for Wednesday, September 14, 2016 (around noon). Participants should expect to be engaged full time in during the eleven days. Please see the program for details.


The institute will be held at ETH Zurich (Institute gta), University of Zurich (Institute of Art History), Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), Zurich/Lausanne, and EPFL Lausanne (DHLAB). Place of arrival and departure is Zurich.


The institute is generously funded by the Getty Foundation as part of its Digital Art History initiative. Participants’ expenses for travel and accommodation during the summer institute will be fully covered. A moderate per diem will be granted. No additional fees will be requested.

Intended Audience

The summer institute is aimed at academic researchers and faculty members, independent scholars, and other professionals in the German-speaking area, holding an advanced degree (PhD) in art history or a related field with a specific research interest in digital art history. Depending on their curriculum and experience, a limited number of applicants with a graduate degree might be accepted. Participants will be selected on the basis of their ability to formulate comprehensive research questions in the field of art history and the digital humanities and their ability to disperse the acquired knowledge to colleagues at their home institutions and beyond, subsequent to the institute. Knowledge of German and English languages is mandatory. Professional curatorial experience (in museums, archives, etc.) is beneficial, but not mandatory. If you have questions about eligibility, please contact us by mail at applications [at] digital-collections [dot] online.


Applications must contain a letter of motivation (max. 1–2 pages) and a curriculum vitae (max. 2 pages). A brief description of the applicants ongoing projects in the field of digital art history and/or a letter of reference can be added (max. 2 pages). Applications are due April 10, 2016 and will be accepted online at

Program (tentative)

Sunday, Sept 4, 2016
Welcome and Orientation

  • Arrival in Zurich (12 a.m. at latest)
  • Administrative tasks and site orientation
  • Welcome dinner and discussions with the faculty

Monday, Sept 5, 2016
Opening and Introduction (public)

ETH Zurich
  • Opening Ceremony and Welcome Remarks
  • Introduction »Perspectives in the Digital Humanities«
  • Presentation of the Program
  • Participants’ Project Presentations
  • Roundtable Discussion with invited guests
    »Challenges and Prospects in Digital Art History«
  • Opening Reception and Discussion

Tuesday, Sept 6, 2016
Accessing, Organising and Analysing Digital Collections

ETH Zurich, Institute gta
  • Introduction
    »Researching Digital Collections. Engineering Digital Art History Projects«
  • Case Study »The Digital gta Archives«
  • Case Study »Selected holdings of the gta Archives and their digital representation«
  • Project work, structuring own data and setting up own workspace and server
  • Questions, feedback, and conclusions

Wednesday, Sept 7, 2016
Building Digital Collections and Digital Research Tools

ETH Zurich, Institute gta
  • Introduction »Meta Data and graph-based Research Tools in the context of Digital Collections«
  • Hands-on » Metadata and Linked Data in Digital Research Tools«
  • Hands-on »Using and Connecting graph-based Research Tools«
  • Project work
  • Presentation of project work
  • Questions, feedback, and conclusions

Thursday, Sept 8, 2016
Data Mining and Researching Historic Archives / Spatial History

EPFL Lausanne, DHLab
  • Transfer to EPFL Lausanne
  • Introduction »Data Mining and Researching Historic Archives«
  • Case Study »Reconstructing Venice«
  • Hands-on » Annotating and Data Mining historic documents«
  • Project work
  • Questions, feedback, and conclusions

Friday, Sept 9, 2016
Visual Pattern Discovery

EPFL Lausanne, DHLab
  • Introduction »Visual Pattern Discovery in large Images Databases«
  • Hands-on
  • Project work
  • Presentation of project work
  • Questions, feedback, and conclusions

Saturday, Sept 10, 2016
Case Studies: Digital Collections online

SIK-ISEA, Lausanne
  • Introduction »Cloud Collections. Museums and Digital Art History«
  • Case Study »Online Collections. Re-using Research Data in Real World Museums«
  • Discussions
  • Transfer to Zurich

Sunday, Sept 11, 2016
Day off (optional working day)

ETH Zurich, Institute gta
  • Project work (trouble-shooting and drop-in help provided)

Monday, Sept 12, 2016
Digital Publishing: Sharing Research and Scholarly Communication

SIK-ISEA, Zurich
  • Introduction »Digital Publishing of Collection based Research Data«
  • Case Studies
  • Discussions
  • Project work and preparation for the final colloquium
  • Questions, feedback, and conclusions

Tuesday, Sept 13, 2016
Visualising Research History and Final Colloquium (public)

University of Zurich, Institute of Art History / SIK-ISEA, Zurich
  • Introduction »Visualising Research History«
  • Case Studies
  • Final Colloquium and Presentation
  • Farewell Dinner

Wednesday, Sept 14, 2016
Wrap-Up, Next Steps, and Networking

University of Zurich, Institute of Art History
  • Wrap-up project work and next steps
  • Closing Seminar Feedback discussion and final survey
  • Departure from Zurich (1 p.m. at latest)

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