About Smarthistory

At Smarthistory, we’re on a mission to open museums and cultural sites up to the world, one video at a time. We’re creating world-class resources on art and cultural objects for learners from around the globe—for free.

Smarthistory is the most-visited art history website in the world. Our conversational videos and essays cover art and cultural objects that range from the paleolithic to the present.

Art connects us to the world; it allows us to imagine, to create, to build and to inspire, and it shouldn’t be locked up in a textbook. Smarthistory takes you inside museums and outside to ancient temples and engages in conversations about how to interpret and understand the images you’re seeing.

Smarthistory brings you into the conversation.


Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Galleries, London)

Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Galleries, London)

Now more than ever we need understanding, rigorous analysis and nuance, and art history teaches the critical thinking needed to better comprehend current events and their cultural and historical context.

Smarthistory is the window through which to learn about today’s biggest clash points: we interrogate faith, class, race, gender and power through a study of art and objects from ancient times until the present. We show learners how to navigate their world by teaching the skills of interpretation and judgement to help them make meaning of the world around them.


For the past five years I have relied heavily on your wonderful Smarthistory website when I teach Art Appreciation on our public campus. The open source text has enabled me to do away with a hard copy text and save my students hundreds of dollars. In addition I believe your articles and videos are superior to any text on the market today. (Liz Frey, Associate Professor, Centralia College)

Art encourages empathy and connection across cultural divides: by understanding each other’s history and context, we can grow closer with stronger compassion and knowledge.


Tomb of the founder of the Ming dynasty, Nanjing, China

Tomb of the founder of the Ming dynasty, Nanjing, China, 1381-1405

At Smarthistory, we believe in the power and importance of dialog. We don’t prescribe or dictate: we use unscripted conversations to show the subjective, interpretive and experiential nature of art. Human brains are wired to follow real conversation and we find that engages the processes of learning.

Examining art doesn’t have to happen with a silent, respectful gaze: artists invite inquiry and debate, and we facilitate and role-model that dynamic exchange for learners to help the art come alive. On Smarthistory, our conversations are intimate connections with our learners: we speak directly to them and include the sound of visitors or the echo of the vaulted ceiling of a church to help contextualize the artwork’s location and to relate art history to a world that students recognize.

Raphael, Euclid and His Students Raphael, School of Athens, fresco, 1509-1511 (Stanza della Segnatura, Papal Palace, Vatican)

Raphael, School of Athens (detail), fresco, 1509-1511 (Stanza della Segnatura, Papal Palace, Vatican)

Smarthistory is the result of a collaboration of more than 300 art historians, archaeologists, curators and academics who want to make the highest-quality art history resources freely available to a global audience.

We believe collaborating is the best way to create powerful and compelling content, and bring together content creators from a diverse array of perspectives and backgrounds. All our contributions are donations, expressing our community’s shared belief in making the best in global art history freely available to learners around the world.


Many of us involved with Smarthistory recognize that it is form of activism or a democratizing social project because the site is available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. You can read content or watch videos in any order you like. You can rewrite traditional narratives….Smarthistory is also an outlook and a method. In fact, let’s just create a verb here: “to smarthistory”….I smarthistory because I want to shake up the canon, transform how Art History operates, engage with different publics, collaborate with people, transform my classroom (and my pedagogy for that matter), and challenge myself to think in new ways. (Dr. Lauren Kilroy Ewbank, Associate Professor of Art History at Pepperdine University)


Smarthistory supports the ethical and open sharing of cultural knowledge. All of our resources are published under a Creative Commons non-commercial license and are available ad-free to anyone with an internet connection.


Piano and Rogers, Centre Pompidou, 1971-77

Piano and Rogers, Centre Pompidou, 1971-77


Many of the greatest inventions have come from art: seeing, thinking and wondering about improving the world. We strongly believe art history helps us understand past generations and their dreams and aspirations, while also informing our own.

Smarthistory can bring art and history to life, taking you right up to a monument, painting or object in its current environment, helping you journey to places and times beyond your own. The world is complex, but learning about it doesn’t have to be.


Start here.


Recent stats

37 million views in 2017
300~ academic contributors
1800~ essays and videos
100,000 YouTube subscribers


Smarthistory was founded by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker who are the executive directors. Dr. Naraelle Hohensee is Smarthistory’s Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow. Smarthistory also relies on our team of contributing editors.


Smarthistory has worked with the following institutions

American Museum of Natural History
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Asian Art Museum
The British Museum
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
J. Paul Getty Museum
Google Cultural Institute
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Museum of Modern Art
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Portland Art Museum
Toledo Museum of Art
Wadsworth Atheneum
World Monuments Fund


Form 990s


SMARTHISTORY and the SMARTHISTORY logo are registered trademarks and service marks of Smarthistory, Inc. in the United States.