Latin American Art: an on-line research resource

The aim has been to make the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art (UECLAA) available as a fully illustrated online catalogue. We began by developing a database that would facilitate management of the collection, integrating the full illustrated catalogue with mailing lists, contact and biographical details for artists, details of copyright agreements and other reports forms (records of donation etc), and information about the current location of a work of art etc. Tailoring the relevant aspects of this to suit the needs of an online catalogue was not easy and inevitably perhaps we began by working in circles. How could we decide what should go in the database, and in what form until we had decided what sorts of information people might want, and how it should be presented in web form? But how could we decide what people might want before we ourselves had fully researched the collection in order to find out what sorts of information we could offer? And how could we do this without deciding on the structure of the database we would need in order to store the information we had not yet found? From my own point of view as a traditional academic used to writing books and articles, one of the problems was to get rid of any idea of steering the reader through the material in a certain direction. People use the web in many ways and for many reasons and we have worked to provide a variety of routes into and through our collection to allow for this. Our SEARCH facility begins with the simple search for an artist by name and moves on to a number of other options. The KEYWORD search, for example, will throw up a miscellaneous range of works which we have tagged with any term that seems loosely appropriate in relation to form, content or technique (for example blue; moon; pain; geometry; scratch). The advanced search includes a less arbitrary range of subject categories under THEME where the user is offered a choice of selected themes. This contains categories that may be contentious, such as ethnicity and race, so it has been important to use these with care and to respect the artist's intentions. Other search categories duplicate information available in the three options available under BROWSE: by artist, by type of work, and by country.

Principal investigator
Professor Valerie Fraser; Libby Armstrong; Joanne Harwood; Sarah Demelo
Principal project staff
Professor Valerie Fraser
Start date
Friday, February 1, 2002
Completion date
Friday, April 1, 2005
Source material
The source is the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art and the department of Art History's research expertise. The collection comprises over 600 works of art in all media (painting, sculpture, video, sound art etc). The collection was photographed onto 3x4 transparencies and then scanned as tiff files. These were saved as tiff, large, medium and thumbnail images, with the last 3 available via the online site.