Thu 8 April 2021

The Photographic Collection is pleased to announce that the long-awaited rebuilding of its online platform, the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database, has begun. To our delight, we have discovered the London-based firm System Simulation, whose software package CollectionsIndex+ has a good track-record on museum and academic websites, including at the Sir John Soane Museum and the Courtauld Institute. We have also managed to raise a significant grant from the Kress Foundation to pay towards the initial cost. The Director is keen to see the database firmly and permanently established as part of the Institute's digital strategy and the University has just given the go-ahead for the collaboration with System Stimulation.

The existing Iconographic Database has been online since 2010. It is an open-access collection of digital images organised according to an iconographic taxonomy similar to the iconographic classification system that Rudolf Wittkower developed for the analogue Photographic Collection in the 1930s. The database contains ca 100,000 images at present -- mainly digitised photos from the Photographic Collection, but also new images from a variety of sources, and even images that are held on external websites, but complement the Warburg's holdings. While the database has been successful in making the Institute's visual materials and and their thematic arrangement available to a world-wide audience, its design is showing distinct signs of ageing and falls short of current standards for the curation of on-line image collections and the interoperability of digital resources.

The Institute's Digital Librarian, Richard Gartner, and the Deputy-Curator of the Photographic Collection, Rembrandt Duits, have developed a new data model for the resource expressed in XML. This model will guarantee the long-term stability of images and their associated metadata. We have just passed on this model to System Stimulation, who will use it as a basis for the development of new public and administrative interfaces for the curation and display of the images in the future. We hope to launch the renewed resource in the autumn of 2021 and are excited about the possibilities it will offer for iconographic research and for the cooperation with other academic and museum websites. One such cooperation will be with PHAROS, the international consortium of academic photographic collections, of which the Warburg Institute is a founding member. The new design of the Iconographic Database will allow us to share images with the joint image database that PHAROS have been building, and we are happy to report that we are presently lined-up for integration with the PHAROS database at the same time as the new Iconographic Database will go public.