Skip to content

Re-Built: CAA Presentation

2015 March 20
by Sheila

I was invited to participate in the “Doing Digital Art History: Reflections on the Field,” panel at the College Art Association conference in New York on February 14, 2015. Below are my slides and my talk.

Unfortunately, I could not give my talk due to a family medical emergency. I was disappointed because I was on the program with some real superstars. Special thanks go to Anne Helmreich of the Getty Foundation who read my presentation on my behalf on very short notice.

Additional thanks go out to the panel organizers: Anne Goodyear, Bowdoin College; Anne L. Helmreich, Getty Foundation; Paul B. Jaskot, DePaul University


At this time last year, we opened applications for Building the Portfolio: DH for Art Historians
Hoping to attract art historians established in their fields but novices in the digital realm.


We had no idea if anyone would apply. Then, we noticed a lot of visits to the application page.

We received 80 applications from art historians hailing from around the world and the US, specializing in different fields, and representing different professional backgrounds in universities, galleries, libraries, and museums.

We had 20 spots. We made room for 24, because we received a few applications from DC- area art historians who didn’t need travel funds. The Getty allowed us to expand the cohort.


We crafted a curriculum to give participants a taste of the different flavors of digital humanities work. We offered breadth, and also provided each participant with the building blocks for advancing their own digital research projects and/or developing digitally-inflected pedagogy.

We discussed theory. They learned new skills. We interrogated DH methods and how they applied to each person’s art history work.

Everyone grew comfortable with sharing what they knew and admitting what they did not, and gained a better understanding of the collaborative nature of DH projects.

Each participant left the institute with their own web domain and a basic knowledge of servers.
They installed open-source software, including WordPress, Omeka, and Zotero; and worked with many others, including Scalar, Voyant , and Palladio.

They all have a better understanding of “data” and why and how art historians might use “data.”


To measure how well we met our goals, we surveyed participants before they arrived and after the institute ended.

We also took a few short surveys in the middle of the institute to gauge the workload, pacing, and overall satisfaction with the schedule. We tried to adjust accordingly.

We were very pleased with the growth we saw over the course of 2 short—but very intense—weeks.
Most participants left with more confidence in their abilities to review digital work for a professional journal and for promotion review; to advise students in digital art history projects; to discuss, share, and teach topics and approaches in digital humanities generally and digital art history specifically.

At the beginning, for example, only 35% of the participants reported that they felt comfortable reviewing digital work in a colleague’s portfolio for promotion; 10% said no; and 55% weren’t sure.

By the end, 76% said yes, no one said no, and 19% were not sure. We thought that was good progress for 2 weeks of work.


We were most pleased that 100% of the participants were “very satisfied” (the highest available rating) with their institute experiences, with the CHNM team, their new skills, and new abilities to make and interrogate digital art history work.

Thank you to the Getty Foundation for their excitement and support of this growing field. We feel so privileged to have this opportunity to help grow the community of practicing digital humanists.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /home/sheilabr/public_html/ on line 65

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS