September 2023 Issue

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

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

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

Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Reviewed by:
Jack O’Malley, Metadata Lead
Frick Art Reference Library
omalley@frick.org
https://doi.org/10.17613/xs0w-8e05

Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, a library of 170 titles published by Bloomsbury Publishing, aims to provide students in the visual arts with practically minded resources for inspiration, technical advice, and career development. The digital resource library is organized according to major visual arts disciplines: fashion and textiles, design and illustration, photography, film and animation, architecture and interiors, and marketing and advertising. Within each discipline there are a number of “Basics” and “Fundamental” series, fit for practitioners of all levels. More intermediate resources include both hands-on exercises and more theoretical “required reading”, as well as instruction on career management.

The homepage of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Individual pages (also serving as subject guides) further break down the disciplines into a number of sub-topics. At a glance, these pages communicate the key areas covered by the resources. The “Explore Key Topics” side-panel brings users to an index of chapters tagged by topic, while the links at the bottom of the page bring users to entire e-books. Users can otherwise only see a list of e-books by turning to the “Browse Books” page, which lacks the filtering features users can apply to chapters. The search feature also indexes by chapter with filters available to narrow down searches by key topic. Both the key topics side-panel and the search bar bring users to the same results, but the advantage of the search feature comes primarily from full-text searches of chapters.

The Bloomsbury core disciplines.
The Film and Animation discipline page.

The books and chapters themselves are excellently rendered, with (according to Bloomsbury) 150–250 full color images per title, the option for personal download of chapters via the print button, and a smooth and functional full-screen viewer. On mobile, many of these features are diminished by layout changes and screen size, but all the content remains available. Many chapters contain further sub-sections captured in a side-panel table of contents, which facilitates use of these resources as reference material. The contents accurately reflect the resource’s commitment to providing granular, practical introductions for new to intermediate students in the visual arts. The titles take nothing for granted when explaining how to point a camera or craft a portfolio. 

The page view for a chapter of the book The Fundamentals of Digital Photography

The resources in Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts have been aptly selected for the target audience of visual learners, especially for students who may want to frequently refer to reference material in a specific chapter as they move through the learning process. Delivering these titles digitally makes sense for the same reason, especially given the quality of the digital titles. The limitations of the search and browse features can make discovery more difficult than necessary, but it is still possible to consistently find the right resource. Bloomsbury also adds new resources on a regular basis. Applied Visual Arts also supplies the title list as an Excel Sheet, which has some additional metadata and may aid collection development selectors in evaluating the resource.

Librarians interested in the benefits of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, such as facilitation of self-learning, explicit focus on applied basics, and breadth of coverage, will have to balance them with the financial cost. Although Bloomsbury offers a free thirty day trial, institutions will ultimately need to request a quote and pay to secure ongoing access for their users. Bloomsbury does not provide general pricing information. Comparable open-access resources include MERLOT, Open Textbook Library, and other introductory titles in the library catalog, among others available online, and librarians will need to choose between curating resources that fit their students’ needs with the broad coverage and disciplinary topics of this resource.

Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey

Reviewed by:
Marilyn Creswell, MLIS
marilync@tutanota.com
https://doi.org/10.17613/kny1-0b95

Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey is a one-hour segment of PBS’s American Masters series in partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES series. It is a documentary film about a photographer’s ability to capture architecture and sculpture, so translating an object from one medium to another is central to the story. It fits the tone of other PBS documentaries: both informational and relaxing. In the canon of artist documentaries, it is similar but more professionally focused than the 2021 Rita Moreno episode of American Masters. It may be most similar to the 1993 The South Bank Show episode on Annie Liebovitz: structured by significant projects, showcasing famous works, and supplemented by personal interviews. 

This work would pique the interests of photographers, sculptors, architects, and anyone who studies those subjects. In addition to covering Guerrero’s photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and their works, the documentary includes Guerrero’s coverage of war and the “Mad Men” era of magazine imagery. Thus, some segments might appeal to students of different periods of American media history. Despite the preview’s mention of his upbringing in segregated Arizona, the documentary only briefly engages with his Mexican-American identity as it relates to his decision to enlist. Instead, it focuses more on the subjects of his works. The work was filmed just three years before Guerrero’s passing in 2012, so it functions as a retrospective of his main works. 

Only a three-minute or six-minute preview is available through the PBS website for users without an account; the full film is also available via the Kanopy streaming service, to which many public and academic libraries subscribe. Purchase of the documentary is available through a digital download or on DVD through PBS or Amazon ($24.99). It can be rented or purchased as a digital download on the Apple TV store ($4.99-$9.99) or Amazon ($4.99-$7.99), as well as via Prime Video or Apple TV subscription streaming services. Apple and Amazon both allow users to view materials in browsers or through their apps. Despite the partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, the Kanopy instance of the film did not offer Spanish audio and caption options at the time of this review. 

PBS produced a book, digital exhibit, and other educational resources to accompany the documentary, which will be helpful for viewers who wish to study individual photographs at length. Interviewees in the documentary remark on Guerrero’s ability to capture three-dimensional architecture in a two-dimensional form, and the documentary filmmakers highlight that ability. The movie includes many of Guerrero’s photographs, then shows where he took them, demonstrating how artfully he captured the feeling of a place. When covering more biographical elements of the story, the documentary includes interview footage with Guerrero; at other times, it uses historical film footage. These were effective tools to give audiences a better sense of who Guerrero was and what world he lived in. 

Alt-Text: Guerrero in his living room, facing the camera.
Pedro E. Guerrero speaks to audiences, reflecting, “I’m still amazed what can happen with just the click of a shutter […] I’m ninety-two, of Mexican descent, still proud, and I’ve had a fantastically glorious life, and it continues to be that way.”