November 14, 2014

The Getty Foundation and Eight Partners Move Museum Publishing into the Digital Age with the Launch of Free Online Collection Catalogues

Online Catalogues from All Partners Now Available; Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries Release Final Publication of the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative

Alexandria Sivak
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6473

The Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative, or OSCI, led by the Getty Foundation, is finding solutions for the complex task of creating museum publications in a free digital format.
LOS ANGELES— How does the high-quality, glossy museum collections catalogue, traditionally made for print, fit into today’s world of apps, e-books, and iPhones? Going digital with scholarly publications requires museums to completely rethink the ways content about their collections can be created and shared. The Getty Foundation, together with eight major museums, is leading the way in digital publishing for museums, including the recent launch of an interactive, multimedia catalogue by the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the final publication from the group.

The Getty Foundation began the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) in 2009 in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum and eight other museums: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Seattle Art Museum; Tate; and the Walker Art Center. Together the group has been tackling the challenges of online publishing by creating new prototypes for scholarly catalogues in the online environment.

“Publishing scholarly collection catalogues is a critical part of a museum’s mission, yet printed volumes are costly to produce and difficult to update,” said Deborah Marrow, Director of the Getty Foundation. “Digital publishing presents an attractive, interactive alternative, but with complex challenges. Approaching these issues as a team has been the only way to develop models for the museum field.”

While many organizations are charging a premium for this type of online content, the OSCI group is providing it free of charge as a resource to scholars and the general public.

When the initiative first began in 2009, tablet computers were not yet in widespread use and the iPad had not been released. Five years later, audiences have come to expect that all organizations, including museums, will provide quality digital content in easily accessible and dynamic formats. This is what the Getty Foundation’s OSCI collaboration aims to deliver.

Screenshot of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries OSCI publication
Although each participating museum developed a project based on the nature of its permanent collection and institutional values and priorities, the consortium has worked as a group from the start – an innovative approach in the museum world. During the process, the group has developed a set of tools and resources that are now being freely shared, paving the way for digital innovation among museums. The software tools developed by the group are both flexible and replicable, so they can support a broad variety of collections-based publications by other museums.

Under the OSCI banner, the collaboration has produced an abundance of dynamic online content. Thanks to these OSCI resources, readers are now able to study detailed images of artworks online, overlay them with conservation documentation, view videos with artists discussing their work, discover scholarly essays in easy-to-read formats, take notes in the margins that can be stored for later use, and export citations to their desktops – among a variety of interactive ways to engage with the new scholarship.

Screenshot of the National Gallery of Art’s OSCI publication showing image comparison tool

Following is a list of the OSCI publications made possible by Foundation grant support:

Art Institute of Chicago
Monet and Renoir Paintings and Drawings

Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler
The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book: The Gerhard Pulverer Collection

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Southeast Asian Art at LACMA

National Gallery of Art (NGA)
Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Rauschenberg Research Project

Seattle Art Museum
Chinese Painting and Calligraphy

The Camden Town Group in Context

Walker Art Center
Living Collections Catalogue: On Performativity (Volume I)

For more information, or to browse the online catalogues, visit or

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The Getty Foundation fulfills the philanthropic mission of the Getty Trust by supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the greater understanding and preservation of the visual arts in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Through strategic grant initiatives, the Foundation strengthens art history as a global discipline, promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the visual arts. It carries out its work in collaboration with the other Getty Programs to ensure that they individually and collectively achieve maximum effect. Additional information is available at

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