Are you an art teacher? An art student? Or just a general art geek? If so, take a look at this fantastic art history website: smarthistory.org. It features short videos about different artworks from art history. What makes these videos more entertaining than your usual monologue-style educational video is that these videos have unscripted conversations between art historians about the work of art under scrutiny. These spontaneous conversations, with occasional differences of opinion, make for lively listening (and learning).
Basically smarthistory.org is a free, not-for-profit, art history textbook presented online as a multimedia web book. It began as a blog by Dr. Beth Harris (Director of Digital Learning at the Museum of Modern Art) and Dr. Steven Zucker (a specialist in 20th-century art and theory and Chair of History of Art and Design at Pratt Institute) who wanted to teach art history in a more interesting and engaging way. The blog grew into a fully fledged website that has won some great accolades including:
- the coveted Webby Award for Best Education Website, 2009
- PC Magazine’s Top 100 Websites, 2009
- Gold Award, AVICOM, International Council of Museums (ICOM), 2008
The videos serve as a basic introduction to a work of art and with over 300 available, you could watch one a day for nearly a year. The website is well organised and you can search for information by Theme, Artist, Style or Time. Besides the videos, there are essays, links to other relevant websites, FlickR images, and you can even join a study group online. So check it out at http://smarthistory.org
To give you a taster, here Beth Harris and Steven Zucker discuss Leonardo’s painting, Adoration of the Magi, in the Uffizi, Florence.