185 100,000 IMAGES ON A SINGLE DISC
December 3, 1998
The Bridgeman Art Library has produced a complete visual catalog of their
entire collection on a single CD-ROM disc. The disc showcases over 100,000
pictures and operates on either MAC or PC. This is not a DVD, but a CD!!
The preview images are about 200x200 pixels and store on the disc as JPG's
at about 5K each. The thumbnail is sampled down from this.
With most general photography the thumbnails would be too small to get much of
a sense of the content of the image. But, given the unique nature of the
Bridgeman collection the client is usually trying to determine if the library
has a specific title by a particular artist. They learn what they need to
know from the text, not the photo. The title or subject of the work and the
artists name appears beside each thumbnail. Up to eight thumbnails are
displayed at a time.
One interesting feature which makes the thumbnail little more than a spot of
color beside a text caption is the way the program handles vertical images.
Every thumbnail appears as a horizontal. The verticals are compressed top to
bottom so all the information fits the horizontal format. Thus, the thumbnail
of a full length painting of a svelte woman makes the woman look short and fat
as if she were standing in front of a fun house mirror. If the text doesn't
tell the user what they need to know, the thumbnail is of little help.
Searches are possible by title, artist, nationality of the artist, medium in
which the work was done, period, style and present location of the original
(museum, etc.). It is also possible to enter keywords such as rose, winter,
jealousy, happy, etc. While such keywords produce some hits, the keywording
is minimal and spotty. Some images have no keywords at all and the user is
urged to call Bridgeman's researchers if they don't find what they want.
The disc has a notepad function that allows the user to click on a thumbnail
and drag it to the notepad. The user can later review his notepad selections
and delete unwanted selections. Then it is possible to print out a fax for
with image numbers and descriptions, but not the images, which can be sent to
Bridgemen to request transparencies.
This disc is probably a useful tool for customers of fine art images. Its most
important contribution is that it gives the user
access to the entire collection, with the exception of new acquisitions. The
Bridgeman Art Library currently represents more than 750 collections and acts
as a central source for accessing high quality transparencies and
rights clearances for works of art from museums and private collections around
The disc is being sold for £65.
Bridgeman is planning to begin putting their entire collection on-line in the
spring of 1999, but this may take some time as they still have to clear permissions
from some of the galleries and agencies they represent to place images on-line.
With the disc, in cases where they did not have permission to put an image on the
disc they included the text description and a notice that the owner would not allow
the image to be displayed in this format. In this manner they let the user know
they can obtain an image of the particular subject without actually showing the
Bridgeman has also announced that The Visual Arts Library, London has just
merged its 25,000 image collection with Bridgeman, significantly augmenting
the 19th and 20th century art available at the combined library.
The Visual Arts Library collection is also especially well regarded for its
holding os works by French artists and its enviable range of contemporary art.