Please note: Back issues of Multimedia and Technology Reviews are available in ARLIS/NA Commons.
We’re excited to announce the September 2023 issue of Multimedia & Technology Reviews. Follow the links from each title below or click the DOI link directly to read the reviews. You can find more of our reviews in the ARLIS/NA Commons CORE Repository.
Digital Benin is a stunning example of a centralized digital platform for displaced, translocated collection objects. The clearly articulated interface and robust, well-researched content powerfully reconnect “objects looted by British forces from the Kingdom of Benin (now Edo State, Nigeria) in February 1897,” representing over 5000 objects across 131 institutions in 20 countries. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/2xcb-p513
The Imitation Game: Digital Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
The website of The Imitation Game is an intellectual entry point to–and an artifact of–an exhibition of the same name, staged at the Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia in 2022. Deriving its title from mathematician Alan Turing’s famous test of computer intelligence, the project delves into utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the production of art, architecture, and other creative works. The site presents a chronological overview starting in the 1950s, leading to a particular focus on the past ten years of AI-related creative works. The website’s authors assert that “today it is reasonable to say that AI is a critical component of any creative practice.” See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/6cb1-z478
Project Himalayan Art
Project Himalayan Art is an interdisciplinary resource created by the Rubin Museum of Art that seeks to encourage educators to incorporate materials relating to Himalayan, Tibetan, and Inner Asian art and cultures into their curricula. This initiative has online, print, and in-person components, including the book Himalayan Art in 108 Objects; a traveling exhibition to appear at five different U.S. locations from 2023 – 2026; and a digital platform. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/7rn9-yj39
Focus on Japanese Photography, a Digital Publication from SFMOMA
Focus on Japanese Photography (FJP) is a digital publication from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art sharing recent research on Japanese photography from the post-war era onward. The publication features eleven photographers from the SFMOMA collection. Edited by curator emerita of photography, Sandra S. Phillips, contributors include curators and doctoral students from the United States, Canada, and Japan. Originally launched in 2017, an expanded iteration of FJP launched in February 2022. FJP is a sort of semi-static online catalog, organized and reading much like a traditional print publication but more readily accessible for updates and includes audiovisual content. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/9ra1-gp48
Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral Project
The Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral Project utilizes both visual and acoustic modeling to offer a new dimension to understanding historical public worship within the Church of England in real time. The multi-year project developed at North Carolina State University utilizes computer-based models aimed to accurately depict the cathedral architecture from historical records, and recreate the experience of services during Spring 1624 and Fall 1625. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/chaw-j639
Secondary Archive is a web-based platform documenting information about women artists from central and east Europe, from the 1930s through the present. The site’s name references Simone de Beauvoir’s monograph The Second Sex, which states that women are secondary to men in their very existence. There is a second secondary meaning in which the countries of central and eastern Europe are not often included with the so-called first world of the West. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/7g2g-sa79
Missouri Remembers, Artists in Missouri Through 1951
Missouri Remembers: Artists in Missouri through 1951 is a free online resource funded the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, launched to coincide with the state’s Bicentennial in 2021. Three institutions–Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; the Kansas City Art Institute; and the St. Louis Public Library–collaborated to bring Missouri Remembers to fruition, and the site provides a model of how the sharing of resources can result in a richer, more comprehensive product than can be created by an individual organization. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/2rs8-2n59
We’re excited to announce the June 2023 issue of Multimedia & Technology Reviews. Follow the links from each title below or click the DOI link directly to read the reviews. You can find more of our reviews in the ARLIS/NA Commons CORE Repository.
Martin Wong Catalogue Raisonné
The Martin Wong Catalogue Raisonné (MWCR) is a direct access online project that documents the body of work produced by Martin Wong (1946–1999), an artist who came of age on the West Coast and whose best-known paintings are of life in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The results of this collaboration between the Martin Wong Foundation, Stanford Libraries, and Stanford’s Asian American Art Initiative are available without fees. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/15cv-n577
In Her Own Right: a Century of Women’s Activism, 1820-1920
In Her Own Right is a highly recommended, multi-phase collaboration of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) funded by the NEH, CLIR, Delmas Foundation, and the Gender Justice Fund. The site aggregates digitized materials from member institutions and others to tell the story of women activists in the Philly area in the 100-year period leading up to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/p5z3-ts18
MHz Curationist is a free online platform for sharing open access images of art and artifacts established by the non-profit MHz Foundation. It features 4.4 million public domain images from nine museums: The Smithsonian, Cleveland Museum of Art, Rijksmuseum, Brooklyn Museum, Statens Museum for Kunst, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, and National Gallery of Art. While these digital collections may be available on each institution’s website, Curationist is an aggregate repository. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/afyf-m262
The People’s Graphic Design Archive
The People’s Graphic Design Archive is a crowd-sourced repository of, by, and for enthusiasts of graphic design started by design educator Louise Sandhaus in 2014 to make accessible a vast variety of graphic design examples. Launched in 2022, PGDA has 5,000 registered users uploading digital images of graphic design minutiae ranging from finished design projects, processes, letters, and other published and unpublished materials. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/0k99-pa37
The Index of Medieval Art
Maintained and hosted by Princeton University, the Index of Medieval Art is a comprehensive database of iconography from the Middle Ages that allows users to browse and search images based on subject, location, medium, and other facets. While the Index’s original emphasis on the Western European canon of early Christian art is evident, its scope now encompasses the entirety of the long Middle Ages, up to the mid-sixteenth century. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/5kp8-0d27
Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus
Launched in 2005, Media-N is an open-access, online journal provides a forum for scholars, artists, and practitioners to share their work and promote critical dialogue on new media art. The initial edition was created from papers of the New Media Caucus at the College Art Association (CAA) conference. See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/yvfb-ve66
Produced by UK-based charity Culture24, Museum Crush is a “whimsical and witty site . . . which showcases curiosities in collections up [and] down the land.” Serving as a guide to current exhibits and lesser known collections in a wide variety of regional museums and London institutions, the website’s home page succinctly states: “The most beautiful, intriguing and powerful objects . . . live in museums. Let’s go find them.” See full review at https://doi.org/10.17613/3d45-dj23
We’re excited to announce the March 2023 issue of Multimedia & Technology Reviews. Follow the links from each title below or click the DOI link directly to read the reviews. You can find more of our reviews in the ARLIS/NA Commons CORE Repository.
MoMA Exhibition Spelunker is a portal for exploring the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition history. Originally taken from a large dataset of information from the archives, the company Good Form and Spectacle, transformed MOMA exhibition history from 1929-1989 into a user-friendly portal for deep engagement. https://doi.org/10.17613/6az8-8049
The John Henry Twachtman Catalogue Raisonné by Lisa N. Peters is an authoritative, extensively researched resource documenting the life and works of the American Impressionist painter John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). https://doi.org/10.17613/zsz4-4×98
The Duchamp Research Portal is a free, bilingual, online research tool to discover the life and work of Marcel Duchamp. The portal is the product of seven-year, international collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bibliothèque Kandinsky at Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Association of Marcel Duchamp. https://doi.org/10.17613/mry9-hz66
Directed by Antoine Petit, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), OpenBibArt is a western bibliographic database covering art literature published between 1910 and 2007. The vast scope of subjects range from Late Antiquity to the 21st century, represented by 1.2 million records for periodicals, books, and exhibition and auction catalogs. https://doi.org/10.17613/dfmn-g607
Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook, created by art historians and digital media specialists Beth Fischer and Hannah Jacobs, provides two distinct offerings. The first is a handbook, a how-to guide that could work well as a course text about creating digital scholarship projects in the humanities. The second is a peer-reviewed and cross-reference-able repository of case studies and assignments. https://doi.org/10.17613/6t8a-0418
The Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME) is a collaborative, free-access aggregator developed by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Stanford Libraries, and the Qatar National Library. https://doi.org/10.17613/1s43-0936
Voyager is an open-source suite of tools for creating and displaying three-dimensional images. It was developed by the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office to serve as their 3D imaging pipeline and is available to the public. https://doi.org/10.17613/ztmx-pp34
We’re excited to announce the December issue of ARLIS/NA Multimedia and Technology Reviews. Follow the links below to read the reviews in the ARLIS/NA Commons CORE Repository.
Gavin Goodwin, Creative Arts Librarian
Mount Allison University
Produced by the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, RKDartists& makes up one part of the institute’s digital search platform, RKD Explore. Launched in 2014 and offering over 380,000 records at the time of review, the freely accessible database provides a comprehensive and authoritative resource for biographical information on Dutch and foreign artists from the Middle Ages to the present day.
While the ampersand in the database name may be confusing at first glance, it signifies that the scope goes beyond only artists, with biographical information for art dealers, art collectors, and art historians. The database features international artists, with a heavy emphasis on artists of the Low Countries. A faceted search by location reveals Amsterdam, The Hague, and Antwerp have the most hits. Likewise, “painter” is the most frequent qualification, while “oil paint” is far ahead of other medium/technique terms. Despite this slant towards Dutch artists and artistic styles, the sheer number of artists featured means those interested in art from outside the Netherlands can still find worthwhile information.
RKDartists&’s extensive controlled vocabulary is a major strength, covering places, nationality, artist qualifications, medium/technique, artistic subject and movement, and institutional or association affiliations. The controlled vocabulary utilizes terms from major thesauri like the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus as well as regionally significant terms. The result is a robust and flexible thesaurus. Given the extent of the controlled vocabulary, a more user-friendly method of browsing the hierarchy would be helpful; clicking terms within a record opens a browsable pop-up window, but it is cumbersome and not easily navigated.
Most metadata is derived from the RKD’s library and archives, and as such some records feature a greater amount of detail than others. For example, Vincent van Gogh’s entry is as extensive as the accompanying documentation at the leading Dutch art history institute would suggest. Other artist entries are much less developed. Depending on the nationality of an artist, alternative resources may offer more information.
Perhaps the greatest strength of RKDartists& is the integration with other RKD databases, like images, portraits, and the library and archives. The crosswalks between databases allows users to view artworks directly from biographical entries, or to search the RKD’s library and archives for resources about an artist.
RKDartists& is available in both Dutch and English and generally the translation is excellent. One area which could pose problems are Dutch-specific spellings not adapted for English (e.g., Den Haag vs. The Hague; Parijs vs. Paris) though these minor differences did not pose major barriers during review. More significantly, scope notes for controlled vocabulary terms are not always translated, particularly those specific to the Low Countries.
While RKDartists& might be most useful for those consulting the physical collection of RKD, the wealth of authoritative data in addition to an interactive map of places of birth, death, and artistic activity, makes the database a helpful reference tool. The inclusion of many contemporary artists makes this database useful for uncovering new artists who might otherwise be difficult to discover. Additionally, integration with the RKD archival resources allows easy discoverability of primary sources. Beyond artists alone, the inclusion of art dealers, collectors, and historians opens new research opportunities and the robust controlled vocabulary allows RKDartists& to be used as a thesaurus for other cultural heritage institutions.
While other name authority databases like the Getty Union List of Artist Names or the Virtual International Authority Files offer similar biographical data, the true strengths of RKDArists& come from its accessible and attractive interface, flexibility in search with facets like medium, location, or product, and the deep integration with the other RKD databases; as such, its full potential is realized when considering RKDArtists& as part of the larger RKD Explore platform rather than as a siloed resource. Large amounts of biographical and historical information are still housed in physical format in the Netherlands, but RKDArtists& allows discovery of otherwise difficult to uncover connections between entities without needing to consult primary resources as well as offering access to the growing catalog of digital resources made available through RKD Explore.
Catalogue Raisonné/ Provenance Researcher
Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
By initiating “a national database of information, documents, photographs, and personal stories about the public works made possible by the New Deal,” The Living New Deal is building a comprehensive registry of projects completed between 1933 and 1942. Currently, over 17,000 entries represent “hundreds of thousands” of public works, from heroic murals to humble sewers, making it the only reference source of its kind.
Researching New Deal projects can be a challenge. Multiple agencies were involved, and the records are spread among federal repositories (National Park Service, National Archives, Library of Congress, and National Gallery of Art) as well as state and local agencies. Navigating these primary sources can be daunting, while secondary works tend to be either very broad or highly specific. Living New Deal edits this material into concise narratives organized geographically—much like the WPA American Guides series published under the Federal Writers’ Project.
For an average researcher, the Living New Deal website is a good place to get oriented to the era, with a companion iPhone app handy for searching on the move. Users will need to download the app directly from the Apple App Store, since no link is available on the website. Donation-driven, there is no paywall or account to create. The About section outlines the organizational structure and includes contributor biographies as well as annual reports.
The interface is basic: a simple header with seven categories and drop-down subsections supplemented by a keyword site search. For reference purposes –the focus here – the meatiest sections are Map & Sites and the confusingly titled The New Deal, which features substantive entries on programs as well as a timeline, glossary, and footnoted interpretive essays. The index of agencies is especially useful, as is another grouping projects into categories such as Historic Preservation and Labor Law. A timeline and list of landmark acts situate the programs in world events and domestic legislation. The biographies section features concise and sourced entries, with helpful cross-referencing to particular projects. Wikipedia and other sources (National Archives, DPLA, for example) cover many if not all of these topics, but Living New Deal provides welcome focus on material culture.
Interactive mapping standards are getting higher by the day, but here the Mapbox and OpenStreetMap platforms work well enough, with standard click and zoom features, as well as searching by location (city, state, zipcode). Unfortunately, the standard search box includes unrelated locations and no artist index, making map searches indirect. This means that locating works such as the South Side Community Arts Center involves clicking through a state and city index, then manually paging through alphabetical listings.
Another workaround: exit the map, do an advanced search, and click through the results to get back to the map. Moreover, the database structure includes categories for artist, contractor, and architect, but not engineer, photographer, or writer. Use of these fields appears to be up to the contributor, so that even if mentioned in the descriptive text, figures such as Hilyard Robinson or Louis Kahn are not indexed and therefore can only be found by keyword searching the whole site.For future iterations, the organizers might look to the integrated design of sites such as Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America, and consider releasing Living New Deal as an open-source dataset to make the material portable, interlinkable, and open to wider interpretation. In the meantime, Living New Deal’s 17,000 entries are a unique and valuable compilation.
Winifred E. Newman, Ph.D.
Long overdue, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America was the title of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in spring 2021, complemented by the online course Reimagining Blackness and Architecture, organized and taught by Sean Anderson, the Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA and Arlette Hernandez, Assistant Educator, Department of Learning and Engagement, MoMA. The online course elucidates the ten commissioned exhibition works by architects, artists, and designers, addressing the questions, “How does race structure space in America?” and “What does it mean to create and occupy space?” The focus is on Blackness as lived experience and identity, but the scope is liberal. As the artist Garrett Bradley asserts, this is “…not just black history, but American history.” MoMA created Reimagining Blackness and Architecture with support from Volkswagen of America and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
There is ample scholarship on race in America, but not surprisingly, less that addresses spatial inequities. In American histories of architecture, Black landscapes are barely mentioned. The plantations, Black towns, or neighborhoods of northern migration rarely figure into narratives of public space, either in design or planning. The ambition of Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America and Reimagining Blackness and Architecture is to fill this gap with stories whose narrative drive and intimacy open discussion about the more significant social, economic, political, and intellectual challenges of those under the yoke of racism in America. This exhibition is the fourth in the Issues in Contemporary Architecture series and the only one with an online course.
Six one-week course modules include five themes based on the exhibition projects: Imagination, Care, Knowledge, Refusal, and Liberation, with subthemes. Modules introduce a cast of artists, academics, museum directors, and curators through videos and lessons. Learning outcomes precede modules, and assignments or quizzes follow. The course offers a certificate if one opts to pay, but otherwise is free online with registration and is suitable for learners at the high school level and above. Course materials include digital images of the physical works from the exhibition and drawings, photographs, artist’s maps, newspaper clippings, magazine layouts, video, and audio. A dictionary of key terms is given for the course and prompts guide the learner to the additional discussion, including comments, threads, and online forums. Including multiple examples of artwork, architecture, and design to contextualize the themes the course offers alternative points of view. Coursera hosts the course and will track your progress, organize a calendar, and download reminders.
If there is any criticism of this collection of stories and scholarship, it is the underdetermination of the term ‘Blackness’ outside the American context to Black identities. There is a rich history of artwork, buildings, landscapes, and places outside of the United States that are likely not mute in the circum-Atlantic discussion of race and diaspora. The idea surfaces in Germane Barnes’ A Spectrum of Blackness in Miami, Florida and Emanuel Adammau’s Planetary Scar, but the reading in the course doesn’t open a broader discussion of the global phenomena of what Senegalese poet Léopold Sédar Senghor called negritude or “the sum of the cultural values of the black world, that is, a certain active presence in the world…” (Senghor, 1970). Perhaps that is the subject for future iterations of what is a welcome focus in architecture, design, and art.
In “On the House,” K. Michael Hays, Catherine Ingraham, and Alicia Kennedy wrote, “Architecture is fictional at a fundamental level. Yet its fictions are not just make-believe worlds, but the making of worlds, constitutive of our social being.” This course is a testament to the capacity for history—our collective, complex, and contested story—to shape who we are and may want to be.
Senghor, L.S. 1970. ‘Negritude: A Humanism of the Twentieth Century.’ The African Reader: Independent Africa. Edited by W. Cartey and M. Kilson. New York: Random House, pp. 180.
Hay, K. M., C. Ingrahan and A. Kennedy 1995. “On the House.” Assemblage: A Critical Journal of Architecture and Design Culture 24, (August 1994) Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 6-7.
Carlos Alberto Della Paschoa, Librarian, Vice President of REDARTE/RJ
Biblioteca Nélida Piñon, Instituto Cervantes Rio de Janeiro
Akademie Schloss Solitude is a public-law foundation that promotes artists and scientists through an international, transdisciplinary residency program. The Akademie Schloss Solitude website provides access to publications and residency projects.
Online publications that can be freely accessed via web browser include Solitude Journal, containing a selection of thematic essays and articles. Untranslatable Terms of Cultural Practices – A Shared Vocabulary, examines terms that do not translate into other languages; the approach conveys new values and perspectives.
The Web Residencies program promotes web-based experimentations. Several times artists are invited to respond to a topic put forth by a curator. Following the residency, the process and online work is shared via the Digital Solitude website and newsletter.
Solitude Blog, highlights artistic works and scientific research, as well as interviews and texts by former fellows, digital residents, and curators. Studio Visits invites readers into artist studios through written interviews. For those who wish to be informed about its activities, the Solitude newsletter covers current events, fellows, and ongoing residency calls.
Schlosspost, the old website, is maintained as an open archive. Schlosspost features more than 1,800 contributions, including journal issues, videos or lectures and performances, and interviews posted from 2015 to 2020. In contrast to the current site, it is easy to navigate. The information is clear and well-organized.
While Akademie Schloss Solitude provides access to an impressive array of projects and publications, the navigation can be confusing. The page is very long, one has to scroll the vertical bar five times to see all the information. There are too many colors, fonts in different sizes and styles. The distribution of spaces is not homogeneous. There is a lack of cohesion between links and this prevents fluid navigation between topics and groupings. Some entries lack metadata and there are broken links. Although the site is bilingual German-English, there is plenty of content only available in one language. The introductory texts are somewhat superficial, which makes it difficult to understand the breadth and scope of the site. Only after navigating through the full website, and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), can one realize the importance of the residency program and the quality of information available on the Akademie Schloss Solitude site. With some improvements in the visual and aesthetic organization of the page and the restructuring of its contents and metadata, it is possible to increase the quality, effectiveness, access and usability by users.
On the whole, the art and residents’ project on Akademie Schloss Solitude are a relevant and important resource not only for those who intend to submit an Artist-in-Residence project, but also for artists, researchers, historians, critics and information professionals.
Meredith L. Hale, Metadata Librarian
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) is an open access database that aggregates metadata and images of instruments from over 240 museums located on three different continents. The MIMO project, funded by the European Commission, ran from 2009 to 2011, but new museums have joined as recently as 2019. In its initial project phase, the University of Edinburgh was the lead partner with 11 institutions in total participating. The project’s goal was to establish a single access point to digital content and information on musical instruments. As the site’s URL https://mimo-international.com/MIMO/ implies, the resource is “international” in scope and this fact is reinforced through features like multilingual access. Users can access the database and its metadata in 12 languages. Currently, the database shares 64,166 records of musical instruments held in public collections.
This resource has the potential to be beneficial to a wide range of users, from those interested in tracking how instrument families have changed over time to those researching the design and business of instrument making. In terms of temporal coverage, instruments described in the database were produced between 1700 and 2000. Western Europe is most strongly represented in the database, but works from Asia, Africa, South America, and North America are also present. To navigate through these resources, users can complete a keyword search, use facets, or browse lists found on three tabs on the site’s header. The tabs include “Instrument Families,” “Museums,” and “Instrument Makers.” The “Instrument Makers” tab will be particularly helpful to those researching the design and business of instrument making. Users can browse controlled terms for makers by the categories of “Persons,” “Corporations,” and “Families.”
Content found on individual records differs based on the object and standards of the contributing museum, but each record includes fields for a title, maker, creation date, creation location, instrument family, description, inscriptions, and measurements. Note that while multilingual access is highlighted, only select fields in the metadata are translated based on the language selected by the users. Those wanting to identify literature associated with particular pieces will also be pleased to see that some works include a reference tab that acts as a bibliography of the instrument. Approximately 2,000 records also include access to audio and videos that document the way a person interacts with the selected instrument and its musical range. Closer examination of this content reveals that unfortunately many of these records share broken media links. Several links out to full metadata from the providing partner are also broken (e.g. Elektronisch Instrument). While link rot over time is expected, additional quality control is needed to find and address issues like these.
In addition to users whose primary goal is to search the database’s musical content, staff in libraries, archives, and museums will also find the extensive documentation on digitization, metadata sharing, and project management invaluable. The MIMO Digitization Standard provides guidance on how to best represent musical instruments digitally, by defining mandatory and optional views for all instrument families. It also established guidelines for contributors for mapping and sharing records using the LIDO schema and OAI-PMH. The longevity and reach of MIMO are noteworthy. The project began soon after Europeana was established in 2008 and predates the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) in 2013. MIMO has shared content with Europeana from its beginning, which likely contributed to its thorough documentation of procedures and standards. Like DPLA, MIMO has a membership model to ensure its sustainability. There are three membership levels that require tiered payments from partners based on desired services. Current agreements with data providers are valid through the end of 2023 and will likely be renewed, so MIMO intends to endure and grow. While online resources have changed greatly since MIMO was established thirteen years ago, the database continues to act as a valuable open access resource that serves the unique need of providing a single access point to digital content on musical instruments.
Courtney Stine, Assistant Professor and Director
Bridwell Art Library, University of Louisville
The UK-based Penguin Publishing Group was originally founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane, who wanted a brand of affordable, yet attractive paperback books that could be “bought as easily and casually as a packet of cigarettes” (Penguin.com, “Our Story”). Since then, the Penguin imprint has become an icon known among other things for its minimalist and innovative book cover designs. The books are so beloved that an educational charity called Penguin Collectors Society (PCS) was formed in 2001 to promote the study of Penguin books. A PCS member and hobbyist collector, Alec Atchison, created the website Penguin First Editions to provide a visual record and information about its titles.
The Penguin First Editions website is a lot to take in at first glance. Text is presented in various colors and formats which can be straining on the eyes and difficult to read. At the top of the homepage there is a search bar powered by Google that retrieves search results within the site. A series of links on the homepage provides access to lists of series, illustrators and cover designers, and translators for English language editions, as well as a brief history of the Penguin Books imprint. These links are colorful and formatted to look like the design of Penguin first edition covers.
A page index and site map are essential for understanding what content is available, and for fully navigating the website. External links point to sites including the Penguin Collectors Society, videos by a memorabilia buff, Penguin merchandise, and bookstores. The site’s look and feel probably has not changed much since it was launched in 2013. It is not formatted for modern browsers, so there is a lot of white space. The site URL is not secure (no https://) and the copyright is dated to 2019. Despite its outdated appearance, the homepage mentions the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is still getting updated.
Penguin First Editions is an informative and comprehensive resource primarily focusing on first editions released between 1935-1955. Over the years the website has expanded to over 150 pages of content and over 8,000 entries and images. The site entries provide basic information for each book, including series name and number, title, author, publication date, printer, and original price. Thumbnail images of book cover designs accompanying each entry open in a new tab to show a large image. The images are a bit grainy but legible and better than other examples found on the web. Each cover and logo has been reproduced with the permission of Penguin Books Ltd., who retain copyright and intellectual property.
Many librarians and archivists were credited with contributing to the site through digitization of books and other efforts. In particular, the Stirling University Library, which contains the Mitchell Penguin Collection (3500 books collected by Dr. Angus Mitchell), was mentioned as a major partner.
This is a niche resource that will prove useful to anyone interested in Penguin books and the history of early twentieth-century publishing, graphic design and typography. For further research, the Penguin.com website has an interactive timeline about the history of the publishing group and descriptions of its series. The Penguin Series Design blog contains visual examples and contextual analysis of book designs, artists, and themes for various series under the Penguin imprint. The publication Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, edited by Paul Buckley, provides a visual overview of the Penguin Classics book covers for book design and classic literature enthusiasts.