The Getty Foundation launched its Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) in 2009 with the aim to create replicable models for museum collection catalogues in the online environment. The initiative was supported by a second grant cycle in 2011, and successfully concluded in 2017.
Nine partner museums were involved in the OSCI consortium: Art Institute of Chicago; the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Seattle Art Museum; Tate Gallery; the Walker Art Center; and the J. Paul Getty Museum. The consortium worked together to frame key issues and develop creative solutions to the challenges of moving museum catalogues online.
For a more complete history of the initiative, please see the Getty's OSCI Final Report.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art worked with the larger OSCI consortium to build the OSCI Toolkit as a suite of reusable components that could be combined and enhanced by museum technologists to create a variety of experiences supporting the creation of online scholarship for art museums.
In 2010, the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) engaged the IMA Lab of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and began work together to design prototype software for an online catalogue of works by Monet and Renoir in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Envisioned as a tool for art historians and other scholars, the team took inspiration from existing printed materials—wishing to add the best interactive features of the web without compromising the scholarly nature of the text.
In 2011, after months of curatorial research and technical study, the Art Institute of Chicago released brand new scholarship highlighting Claude Monet’s Beach at Sainte-Adresse and Cliff Walk at Pourville in addition to Pierre-August Renoir’s Laundress. These initial catalogue entries were released as part of a usability test of the prototype software developed by the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This software—named ChicagoCodeX—was released by the Art Institute of Chicago under an open-source license and constitutes the foundation of the OSCIToolkit project.
In the fall of 2011, the Getty Foundation awarded the Indianapolis Museum of Art a one year grant to generalize and enhance the prototype created by the AIC into a general purpose publishing platform for online scholarship in art history. This work has resulted in the creation of new themes, tools, and documentation, as well as encouraged continued collaboration between the Art Institute of Chicago and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which included incorporating feedback and improvements discovered during the initial usability tests of the prototype.
The Art Institute of Chicago completed its Monet and Renoir catalogues in 2013. The success of these initial efforts prompted continued work on digital publishing at the AIC, resulting in a total of ten publications as of May 2017: Art Institute of Chicago's Online Scholarly Catalogues.
While the AIC remains the most ardent user of the toolkit, it was used to create several other publications, including a catalogue by Freer|Sackler, and a handbook on rights and reproductions, published by the American Aliance of Museums. Explore our Catalogues & Publications section to learn more about these projects.
With the conclusion of the Getty's OSCI in 2017, it was decided that the OSCI Toolkit will be sunsetted. The decision was made for technical reasons, prompted primarily by a shift in the underlying ecosystem. With the release of Drupal 8 in late 2015, many Drupal 7 modules on which the toolkit depends are no longer maintained. Read about the toolkit's architecture for a technical overview.
Furthermore, new paradigms and concerns have arisen over the years, which require a new technical approach towards digital publishing. Features that were prioritized then have proven to be problematic or undesirable, while others that are now desirable were not in consideration when the project began.
Accessibility, archivability, and longevity have become primary priorities. The recent push towards linked data within the museum sphere offers tantalizing possibilities in integrating publications with data authorities. Much work also remains to be done in integrating digital publishing tools into institutional workflows and diverse data sources. New standards, such as W3C's Web Annotation Model and the CSS3 Paged Media Module, should inform the architecture, and certain functionality, such as note-taking, should be deferred to new, standards-compliant external tools. These and similar concerns will drive the next generation of scholarly digital publishing tools.
The IMA Lab is proud to have been a partner in the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative. We are thankful to the Getty Foundation for working with us on this project. We believe that the initiative has resulted in publications that demonstrate a variety of approaches, fostered continued inter-institutional collaboration, and paved the way for future innovation in digital publishing.
The OSCI Toolkit project pursued the following goals and methodologies:
Towards that end, we worked to implement the following features:
All these goals have been met, but more work remains to be done in regards to system intergation for digital publishing. For the Freer|Sackler catalogue, we demonstrated how the OSCI Toolkit could be integrated with KE EMu. Similar modules could be added for other collection management systems, as well as with linked data sources.