New report on changing research methods in art history

ITHAKA has recently published a new report called Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians which continues a series of examinations of the discipline began in 2000. It is based on interviews with over 70 prominent art historians, faculty members, curators and related professionals.

Report cover page

The report makes for interesting reading, showing both continuity and change in methods including critical analysis of objects, archival research, technical art history, interviews with artists, interdisciplinary and collaborative methods as well as the growth and impact of digital art history. Trends noted include the growth of certain specializations, particularly contemporary and non-western art. The report also acknowledges its limitations, such as the lack of examination of how current copyright law can restricts research and publication.

Among the headline findings are that digital technology has facilitated access to vast collections of resources previously unavailable but the lack of centralised systems to search for primary sources or for cultural heritage objects means that discovery is still complex. Most scholars also keep substantial personal collections of images and research files but the tools to manage these collections are insufficient. Lastly, there is great variety in the training and methodological grounding provided by different institutions and even different advisors. The careful development of research skills is essential for those entering the profession during a time of great competition for jobs.

The Book Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art is always looking to help support that research training and staff and students alike should feel free to contact us with any queries.