Artistic Endeavors – The Chicago Art Institute’s Digital Collection

As if last week’s Library of Congress’s digital holdings weren’t enough, this week I’m featuring the newly organized Chicago Art Institute’s digital collection.  Not only is the collection more accessible, you can enjoy the Institute’s blog as well.

As this blog post notes, the Institute recognizes that our digital experience has changed since the 2012 redesign.

“…we’ve released thousands of images in the public domain on the new website in an open-access format (52,438 to be exact, and growing regularly). Made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, these images can be downloaded for free on the artwork pages.”

The level of detail available for the resources is greater, and a recommendations engine has been added.

The Executive Creative Director of Experience Design has more to say about the redesign’s wonders, but let’s get to the goodies. Just under the search box are several topics that make for intriguing browsing. There’s essentials, which are the museum’s greatest hits like American Gothic; mythology, armor, woodblock print, modernism, furniture, and many others. Sadly, textiles and fabric aren’t given their own billing.

A check under animals reveals several different kinds of art – paintings, sculpture, stained glass, furniture, etc. Sometimes the animal is central to the piece and sometimes more peripheral, like this drawing of a young lady with a parrot.

Then, there’s this magnificent feathered tunic from Peru, circa AD1500.

To continue with the eclectic entries under the animal theme, ancient Greeks could drink from a donkey’s head that apparently couldn’t be set down without spilling.



I have no idea what to make of this enigmatic watercolor by Rene Magritte called Homesickness. Does the figure have dark wings? Is that a tame lion?

It’s interesting to slice a museum’s deep collection across a subject rather than a format. I found it led to unexpected discoveries.

A word of warning, despite all the press about the redesign, I didn’t find the site especially easy to use. It’s great if you want to link an object to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.; but to see the details of individual objects it seems you need to disable popup blockers.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Artistic Endeavors – The Chicago Art Institute’s Digital Collection

  1. I looked at the whole Fashion category — then clicked through the filters to arrange them by date. Wonderful! One of the individual items I looked at was categorized “textiles” on the left side of the catalog page, so I clicked on that, then “See all 10,000 + items,” then arranged those by date. So much inspiration!

  2. Rosemaryflower

    Yeahhhh Magritte was a weird Belgian. haha. I lived in Belgium for a few years, what a nutty place, no wonder this guy made such silly paintings. He is good…. just kind of a funny joke in our family haha
    I am very pleased and happy that you shared this information about Chicago Art Institute!!!

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