Smarthistory.org is back!

We are delighted to announce a brand new smarthistory.org. This new website contains more than 1500 pages of videos and essays. When we closed the old Smarthistory site about a year ago, we heard that many of you missed the old site. Fear not—the new site is a new and improved version of the old one. And for those of you who love Smarthistory on the Khan Academy platform, we remain committed advocates of Khan Academy’s mission and will continue to add new content there as well. We see the two websites as part of our effort to make art history broadly accessible. We also distribute content on Youtube and Flickr (and the many course websites and syllabi in which Smarthistory content has been included).

What is Smarthistory?

Smarthistory is a leading resource for the study of art and cultural heritage. We are a tiny non-profit organization based in New York, but we reach millions of learners around the world. Everything on Smarthistory is completely free and our content is offered without the distraction of advertising. In addition, all of our content carries a Creative Commons license to encourage reuse.

What does the new Smarthistory.org do?

Our new site does a lot of the things our previous site did. It places a work of art within a timeline that also functions as the site’s navigation. We have tried to make the site as intuitive as possible while keeping the interface clean so the images can take center stage. Many pages include links to relevant high-resolution images, 360 views, as well as links to additional resources that allow learners to dig deeper. In the coming months we’ll be adding higher resolution images.

We have a fabulous search box (try it!) that offers results with thumbnail images, and several new features including “browse by style” and “browse by image” pages (here’s one example) that offer a grid of thumbnail images of a given style or period. We are experimenting with thematic pages (for example “Death + Afterlife” and “Places of Worship”) that explore themes across cultures. We have also added author pages that allow visitors to locate everything contributed by one of Smarthistory’s contributors (to date, more than 200 experts have contributed to Smarthistory).

Toward a global art history
One of our big strategic goals has been to dramatically increase the representation of work from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania and thanks to our extraordinary contributors, we have begun to make some progress—though there is still a long way to go. We are also working to rethink how this material is organized on the site. Working closely with our contributing editors, we have begun to make changes that we hope invite the visitor to rethink the traditional structures that can inhibit a more nuanced understanding of cultural interaction. For example, instead of including American art (from the colonies to the Gilded Age) with Europe we have placed it in “The Americas.” This section contains the pre-conquest cultures of both North and South America as well as New Spain and 19th century Latin America. The result is an opportunity to see key relationships that are too often lost—for example, the parallel between the colonies of Spain and Britain as well as their interactions with indigenous cultures. Look for similar changes as our global content grows.

If you have a Ph.D. (or are ABD with extensive teaching experience) in the art of Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America or other cultures, we would love to have you as a contributor. Please contact us and have a look at our Trello Board which lists the works for which we are actively seeking essays (though we are always open to additional suggestions).

What’s next?

We are still tweaking the site and would love to have your feedback. User feedback is the single most valuable tool we have, so please let us know what works and what could work better (please leave any comments right on this blogpost). Our main objective is to add more than 100 new essays and videos by the end of 2016 and to grow our partnerships (see our recent work with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the World Monuments Fund).

What you can do

If you are an art historian, please contribute. If you find our content valuable, please make a donation (there is a donate button just to the right of this post). If you are a student, use us.

Behind the scenes

This site was made on a shoestring. We used WordPress and numerous (inexpensive or free) plugins. This site would not have been possible without the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and Ann and John Doerr. We also want to thank Dr. Joseph Ugoretz for handling everything regarding technology—from setting up hosting, to fixing bugs, to pushing WordPress to its limits to make Smarthistory’s content shine. Thanks also to Susan Koski Zucker for her design expertise and for dropping everything more times than we can count to help with the endless details required to make this site’s design as strong as possible. Last but not least, thanks also go to our Digital Curriculum and Design Fellows, Naraelle Hohensee and Gwendolyn Shaw, who did a truly spectacular job moving over content with an attention to detail that was exemplary. The team at Reclaim Hosting gave us rapid, friendly, smart support, as they do for educational projects across the web.

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