Summary of Concept and Goals

PHAROS: An International Consortium of Photo Archives is a collaborative project among fourteen photo archives in North America and Europe established to create a common platform for research on images of works of art in all media, both Western and non-Western, through comprehensive consolidated access to photograph archives. This freely available commons is designed to stimulate research in a broad spectrum of fields by linking together for the first time all of the images and their formal documentation with knowledge amassed by scholars over the years. Consolidated access to tens of millions of images of works of art will be of immeasurable value to scholarship and teaching for a wide range of art-historical research topics including provenance and attribution, conservation research, exhibition research, publication history, the history of photography, the history of art history, and a myriad of other points of information that we can hardly imagine.  The project will also foster a greater understanding of the photograph as physical object and its critical role in the dissemination of knowledge.

The platform will be dynamic, growing over time both in number of works of art represented and an ever-expanding group of institutional participants, including those from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Current members of the consortium are in a position to begin providing access to hundreds of thousands of the more than 31 million images they hold that document works of art in varying states at different moments in time. A unique feature of the project calls for the scanning and aggregation of all of the annotations made on the photographs by eminent scholars over the last 100+ years, thus providing a pan-cultural view that would be impossible to achieve in the analog world, even as the photographs themselves retain value as historic documents.

The project anticipates using ResearchSpace, an open-source platform developed with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the British Museum, for the collaborative environment for PHAROS images and text documentation, and the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) as the knowledge representation for the metadata. The project will also use computer vision to aid in searching, aggregation, image analysis, and metadata analysis and enhancement.

The initial project participants are:

Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome

Bildarchiv Foto Marburg, Germany

Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Frick Art Reference Library, New York

Fondazione Federico Zeri, Bologna

Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris

Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Paul Mellon Centre, London

Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague

Villa I Tatti, Florence

Warburg Institute, London

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven