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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago

People's Choice:
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The Art Institute of Chicago


IMA Lab in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago


Research | Online Collection



A compelling innovation at the intersection of publishing, scholarship, and technology, Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago ( is the Art Institute of Chicago’s response to the Getty Foundation’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) ( This digital catalogue seeks to transform how museums conceptualize and deliver collection-based publications by distributing the highest level of scholarship to the broadest possible audience using the most powerful capabilities of the Web.  Lavishly illustrated curatorial essays, extensive technical reports, and cutting-edge imaging tools provide readers with an interactive experience and allow scholars access to information beyond what is found in a conventional print catalogue or e-book. This preview of the Art Institute’s online scholarly catalogues also debuts its Drupal-based authoring software, which has been developed as an open-source tool for the entire museum community.

Since the public launch of the beta catalogue in November 2011, it has received visits from 48 states, 56 countries, 83 museums and other cultural institutions, and 131 universities. Conservators and curators have hailed the catalogue and its digital publishing platform as a “game-changer,” “ahead of [its] time,” and “truly remarkable.”

In developing this online scholarly catalogue, the Art Institute’s goal was to create a publication that would leverage the extraordinary publishing capabilities of the Web without leaving behind the weight and authority traditionally ascribed to the book format. Some of the features that the catalogue offers are highlighted in the following list:

  • original, enlightening curatorial essays and in-depth technical reports written for the scholar but fully accessible to the general art enthusiast
  • pleasant, familiar reading experience through the use of a columnar layout that adapts to any screen size
  • stable content for each edition, with easy tools to make persistent citations, in order to encourage the embrace of digital publications by art historians
  • a “drawer” at the bottom of the page for easy reference to extensive footnotes and additional illustrations that also provides an alternative method of visually browsing the entry by presenting all of the illustrations in one location
  • a thumbnail image of the artwork under discussion in the upper-right corner of every screen in an entry
  • high-resolution images that afford the reader the ability to zoom in on illustrations in an unprecedented way
  • innovative Multilayer Interactive Image Viewer that allows the reader to compare X-rays, infrareds, and other technical images, guided by conservators’ technical annotations, revealing how Monet may have reworked his paintings during the creation process
  • rich technical illustrations of microimages and paint
    cross sections
  • access to scans of original archival material such as exhibition catalogues, wills, and receipts used for research on the entries
  • electronic note-taking and tags to facilitate research through free online subscriptions
  • easily created citations
  • sections devoted to art collectors that are illustrated by archival photographs
  • informative linked glossary
  • open-source software created within Drupal 7 andresiding at
  • developed by the Art Institute and the IMA Lab to be flexible and replicable in order to support otherinstitutions’ collection-based publications 

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