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.

Screenshot shows People of Craft homepage , including a blue banner reading "People of Craft is a growing showcase of creatives of color and their craft in design, advertising, tech, illustration, lettering, art, and more. It's time to redefine what a creative looks like."

People of Craft

Reviewed by:
Beth Goodrich, Librarian
American Craft Council

People of Craft is billed as a “showcase” of creatives of color in the fields of design, illustration, photography, writing, web development and other adjacent fields. The landing page is vibrantly colorful, with each artist represented by a hero image of their own choosing. The simple interface allows users to browse the gallery of artists and provides links to the artist’s website and social media accounts.

This site is not as much a database as a gallery, offering no search capabilities; however, it provides filtering options by artistic field and geographic location. Artists have the option to be tagged in multiple categories, which include artist, creative director, designer, developer, entrepreneur, illustrator, letterer, manager, photographer, strategist, or writer. Website visitors may filter the gallery to specific categories, or they have the option to view all participating creatives. Filters are also available for specific cities from around the world.

Beyond the filtering features, there is very little functionality on the site. This reviewer found that many of the links to artist websites or Instagram accounts were no longer functioning, leading one to believe the site is largely self-maintained by the participating artists. Users must be prepared for content that is not up to date. Nevertheless, People of Craft can be a useful tool to increase familiarity with and visibility of the creative work produced by communities of color.

Screenshot shows People of Craft page with six tiles for participating who are letterers.
Screenshot of participating artists tagged as “Letter”.

The simplicity of the design of the People of Craft website makes it very easy and intuitive to navigate. The public interface takes place on one page only, with filters visible as a dropdown menu from the webpage header. Contact information for the website managers is also easily accessed from the banner, and this page provides all necessary information for submitting requests, email suggestions, and connecting to the People of Craft Instagram and Twitter accounts. The functionality of the site is maintained and easy to use when accessing from a smartphone. There is no paywall or requirement to sign up for an account to use the site, nor is there a fee for creatives to participate in the site.

There are few other examples of databases featuring artists and creatives of color. Inclusion in Art (https://inclusioninart.com) has a page featuring artists of color in the state of Oklahoma, which, like the People of Craft site, offers only browsing with filtering. Cartoonists of Color Database (https://cartoonistsofcolor.com), created and maintained by cartoonist MariNaomi, has a more sophisticated interface, including search features by name, geography, gender, genre, and roles. While People of Craft may be lacking in functionality, it recognizes a broader artistic and geographic representation.

Screenshot shows People of Craft page with three tiles for participating artists who are writers.
Screenshot of participating artists tagged as “Writer”.

For those looking to become more familiar with creatives of color in a particular field or location, this site can be a useful tool. This site may also be of interest to artists wanting to join an online community of creatives of color. Participants have a good deal of agency in how they are represented on the site, and the barriers for inclusion appear to be minimal. Participating artists may nominate themselves to be included on the site, or they may be nominated by others. Nominations for inclusion are submitted through a simple Google form that screens for artists who self-identify as people of color. Requests for updates or removal from the site may also be submitted through Google forms.

People of Craft is a project of Amélie Lamont and Timothy Goodman, with design assistance by Twisha Patni and Madelyn Hinojosa. The website is coded by Eric Jacobsen.