Visual artwork sizes in a virtual gallery

Since our humble beginnings, it’s been possible to enter the dimensions for an artwork (height and width). However, we’ve never done much with that information other than list it on the artwork page. This past weekend, I added a feature I’ve had in mind for a long time – showing the artwork size in a visual way. Now on the Detail page for any artwork with a height and width, there is a tab called “Artwork size” (artworks without both dimensions do not show this tab). If you click that tab you’ll see the artwork in a virtual gallery:

Of course to get a sense of scale, you need a reference. So, we’ve added some silhouettes of people to the scene (from the wonderful The man in the scene above is scaled at six feet tall.

We have a big range of artwork sizes in The Athenaeum, from enormous Renaissance frescoes to tiny drawings. So we the Detail page “smart” enough to pick the right scale for the artwork in question. Here’s what it looks like for a very small artwork:

And here’s a very large artwork which you should recognise:

Of course, this all depends on having the correct dimensions entered into the database. At the time of writing, we have 62,067 artworks with dimensions entered, and 40,742 without. Having that information for 60% of the art in such a big database is better than I would have guessed.

We still have a few tweaks to make (getting scale indicators onto all of the background images), but I’m very happy with the results. To my knowledge, no other web site does this. I can imagine other ways to use it as well – maybe when comparing two artworks (an upcoming feature), or showing several artworks together when we know they are in the same room of a museum.

Let us know your thoughts, and feel free to add artwork dimensions when you see they are missing!

Mythology is back!

The links to display a mythological figure and to add new figures have been broken for a very long time. Today we fixed those, and also updated the look of the pages. Here is the old look (ah, nostalgia):

And here is the new look:

 So if you would like to help us beef up our content on mythology, get to uploading! Upcoming changes in this area include pages to manage mythological places, linking mythological figures to their depictions in art, and eventually other content sections such as literary references.


Holy uploads, Batman!

Graph of uploads

A graph of upload history at The Athenaeum

As a member-run community,  The Athenaeum lives and dies by the work of those who choose to give freely of their time to improve the site. Over the years our activity has had a natural ebb and flow, but in recent months we have seen a tremendous surge in effort by our uploaders, particularly rocsdad.

Last month we reached even greater heights.  A new member Irene uploaded over 1,500 images in one month, and rocsdad contributed over 1,000 more, resulting in our second-biggest month of uploads ever, just a little shy of 3,000 for the month.  To put that in perspective, if we managed that rate each month, The Athenaeum would almost double its size in one year. It took us more than 10 years to get to 50,000 images; who knows where we’ll be in 10 more years?

Our heartfelt thanks go out to rocsdad and Irene for their selfless labor, and we encourage new members to join in the effort. On our side, we’ll keep building and refining the tools that allow The Athenaeum to offer a depth and interconnectedness that isn’t found anywhere else.


Self portraits

For some time, The Athenaeum has allowed users editing a person to “connect to an image of” that person. This means that you can look up an artwork that depicts a person and make the connection, creating a link from the artwork page back to the person portrayed. It also allows the person detail page to display a random (known) portrait each time you load the page. The search interface to make the connection is a bit clunky, but it all works well once it’s set up.

Recently we spent some time adding a number of these links on the back end through database queries. In particular, we set up several hundred links for self portraits. Once we had those, it wasn’t hard to add a section on an artist’s page to display any known self portraits. To get an idea of what this looks like, check out the page for Vincent Van Gogh.

This all only works as well as the data itself, so if you see a portrait that has not been connected to the person, why not link them?


Improved artwork upload page

We have done a lot of work to improve the artwork upload page. There are too many changes to count, but in addition to making the page prettier, you may notice the following:

  • There are lists of your most recent uploads and all of the artist’s existing works on the page, to make it easier to detect duplicates.
  • It’s a bit easier and faster to choose an owner for the artwork.
  • If the upload stalls, you won’t have to re-enter the information.

There are other good things “under the hood” which won’t be apparent, but will help us to maintain the site better.

Hopefully soon we’ll be able to re-work the artwork updates page in a similar fashion. Let us know if anything doesn’t work correctly, and happy uploading!

Artworks can now be tagged

We have added tagging functionality to the artwork pages. On the main page for an artwork (not the full image display, but the “Detail” page), you can go to the Social tab and click the “Tag this artwork” link. A window will pop up allowing you to tag the artwork.

We get a lot of spam attempts on The Athenaeum, so tags must be verified by another user before they will show up. You can verify tags entered by other members of the site in the same section where you add tags. If there are unverified tags, they will show up automatically.

With the advent of tagging, we can now give you a page to display artworks by tags as well, so that has been added to the front page of the site.

The tags and tag categories are set by the site administrators. Right now we have tags for Greek and Roman mythology, but we’ll be adding more – literature, Christian iconography, and so on. Let us know if there are categories or tags you think we should make available.

Our new blog

This will be the official blog for The Athenaeum. Right now it’s an out-of-the-box look (theme), but we’ll customize it over time, and start using the blog for our news posts. Please feel free to comment on the posts – that’s what we’re here for, and we want to get a lively conversation going, especially about our site design decisions.