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ARTstor: a million images for education and scholarship

April 3, 2009 by Karen Tusack

African maskIf a single picture is worth a thousand words, how many words might one million high-quality images you can use in PowerPoint presentations, online or printed course materials, or even scholarly publications be worth?

Fortunately, you don't have to do the math, because the UW General Library System has purchased the license for ARTstor, a "digital library of nearly one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences with a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes", available free to UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students.

ARTstor collects images from hundreds of contributors, including major museums, photo archives, special library collections, as well as individual scholars and photographers.  Use the database and its special viewing tool to:

• Browse the photos by collection, classification, or geographyBerlin Wall in the 1960's
• Search content by keyword or advanced search terms (e.g., date or geographic origin)
• View images and detailed image data
• Zoom in for greater detail.  Some images can be viewed in QuickTime Virtual Reality mode
• Print and save images and related data to other hardware (e.g. CD, memory stick, hard drive)
• Organize image groups into shared folders and open them up to students
• Upload personal images to the ARTstor platform
• Export images and image groups to ARTstor's Offline Image Viewer (OIV) presentation tool

In addition to using them for classroom purposes, a number of images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be used in scholarly publications free of  charge. Although all ARTstor images can be used in class and in a CMS such as Learn@UW or Moodle,  they should not be posted on a publically accessible web site.

japanese house interiorTo use the database, go to the library's main web site at and click on E-Resource Gateway.  Once there, search for the ARTstor database and click on its link.  You will need to login with your NetID and password.  Access is restricted to on-campus or using WiscVPN off-campus.  Simply search, browse, and save files as much as you like, but you'll find you have many more options if you create an account:  you'll be able to save groups of photos together into custom folders, share those folders with students, and you'll be able to install ARTstor's Online Image Viewer (OVI) on your local machine for optimal image viewing/zooming, as well as for presenting (it's like a mini PowerPoint program with zoom capabilities).

Piazza San Marco paintingFor more detailed information on the database, visit the training/support page at
For one-on-one instruction and help with ARTstor, contact Linda Duychak, Reference Librarian at the Kohler Art Library, 263-2257 or email

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