Reviewed by:
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.

Search results page showing a search bar reading "All databases/site", filters, and a results grid.
The default interface of RKDartists& with a partially expanded advanced search interface.

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.

Database record showing metadata about the artist Rembrandt and on the left-side, a map visualization of geographical data.
A sample record detailing the available metadata and a map visualization of geographical data.
Further details and references are found further down the page.

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.

Text over a large background image depicting slides over a lightbox and a loupe.

Voices in Studio Glass

Reviewed by:
Courtenay McLeland, Head of Digital Projects & Preservation
Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida

Paul M. Hollister (1918-2004) was a noted art glass scholar with a variety of interests that included the growth of the studio art glass movement. Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister from Bard Graduate Center offers a digital exhibition, multimedia archive, and annotated bibliography of Hollister’s writings and documentary efforts related to the post-World War II studio glass movement in the United States. This multifaceted scholarly resource grew from years-long collaborations that began as two separate projects, one to create an anthology of Hollister’s writings and another to digitize selections from his extensive collection of 35mm slides. These efforts merged and additional oral history interviews, new transcriptions, and images were added, rounding out the coverage. 

Content is organized into three broad categories accessible through in a menu at the upper right of each top-level page. The broad categories of Places of Studio Glass, Glass Community, and Hollister Annotated Bibliography each expand to greater depths of material. There is also an informative About the Project page that makes clear the many contributions made by collaborators. 

Within the Places of Studio Glass area there are seven pages for schools or other sites selected for their significant coverage in Hollister’s writings or photographs. Included in the title banner of each place page is a table of contents that provides an overview of sections within. Quotes sprinkled throughout the pages enrich the exhibit experience, though a welcome enhancement would be a link or other way of quickly learning the original source of the quote. It is unclear whether some of the quotes were gathered in association with this project, with one particularly timely quote from Ben Wright on the Pilchuck place page.

The Glass Community page provides records for persons who were either interviewed by or featured in Hollister’s writings. These records vary in coverage and provide a mixture of features that may include an image of the artist, a brief biographical entry, images representing the artist’s body of work, audio or video interviews, and a bibliography of Hollister writings related to that individual.

The Hollister Annotated Bibliography offers Hollister’s critical writings on studio glass published between 1976 and 1995, and includes entries about Paul and Irene Hollister plus transcripts provided by Bard Graduate Center. Many entries include full-text articles in PDF, though some provide links to full-text articles, such as those from the archives of the New York Times or digitized American Craft articles from the American Craft Council. While entries are generally arranged in chronological order, at the end of the bibliography there are areas in which this organizing principle has not been applied. A feature of the bibliography that users will appreciate is a section beneath each annotation with the names of the artists mentioned within the article. Additionally, when a mentioned person is among those with a presence on the Glass Community page, the name is linked back to that entry.

Built in WordPress with collaboration from a team of developers, the clear and engaging design provides visitors with an enriched experience of the material. There are thoughtful visual enhancements, such as highlighted names or text that complement the content without overshadowing it. This freely accessible scholarly and archival resource will be of most value to those conducting research in Paul Hollister’s areas of scholarship, post-war studio glass, and the schools that were significant to the movement, though casual visitors will also find much to explore. Welcome enhancements would be a timeline or chronological listing of significant events as well as a sitewide index or search feature.