Monday, May 21, 2007

Past-Perfect Pixels

From paper to jpegs... Seems everyone is transitioning their archives to the Web. Over the last few years, governments, book and magazine publishers, the NBA and museums have all been gradually making the change. Even the Los Angeles Times has just sold off its photographic archive, having digitized the entire collection. Its the modern means of preservation and it certainly makes historical information more accessible than ever.

Want to see images of palaces where the kings and queens of England lived? Find out about clothing fashions in the Middle East during the 19th century? Find inspiration for a creative project? Or perhaps you'd just like to find some unusual prints to decorate your home? Then the librarians at the New York Public Library have developed the site for you: the NYPL Digital Gallery.

Armenian Lady (At Home)
The oriental album: twenty illustrations, in oil colors, of the people and scenery of Turkey, with an explanatory and descriptive text. By Rev. Henry J. Van Lennep. (published 1862)
Van-Lennep, Henry J., 1815-1889: Artist; Parsons, C.: Lithographer; W. Endicott & Co.: Printer Of Plates

Drapery for three windows.
The practical cabinet-maker, upholsterer, and complete decorator. With numerous illustrative engravings. (published 1826)

In March 2005 the NYPL began digitizing their rare and special collections, establishing the NYPL Digital Gallery as a premiere online pictorial database. The website now offers over 550,000 images, all available for study, commercial use and even purchase. For about $100 any image in the database can be ordered, cropped any way you’d like, and even custom framed. With a few clicks, anyone can access images of materials from the middle ages to the 1950s.

Fall dress, September 1810
Costume of the ladies of England 1810-1823.

Patterns.... upon gold grounds for pillar decorations.
Polychromatic decoration as applied to buildings in the mediaeval styles. Thirty-six plates in colours and gold with introductory and descriptive text. By W. & G. Audsley ... (published 1882)
Firmin-Didot -- Printer Of Plates

The Pheasantry.
Designs for the pavillon at Brighton : humbly inscribed to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales / by H. Repton with the assistance of his sons, John Adey Repton & G. S. Repton. (published [1808])
Stadler, Joseph Constantine -- Engraver

The Art & Architecture Collection of books, the basis of the digitization project, was largely founded on the gift of numerous volumes from the private library of Thomas Hastings, of Carrère and Hastings, architects of the NYPL’s landmark Fifth Avenue building. The collection grew extensively during the second half of the twentieth century and is now formally known as the Art and Architecture Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, after millions of dollars in funding were given by the philanthropist couple. Highlights of the Digital Gallery include images from books on period costumes, pattern and ornament studies, textile studies, furniture design, decorative objects, and architecture.

Les fleurs et leurs applications decoratives (published [1902])
Séguy, E. A. -- Artist

The Queen's Gallery - Kensington Palace.
The History of the Royal residences of Windsor Castle, St. James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckhingham House, and Frogmore. (published 1819)

Three portrait medallions in jasper. (Maria I, Queen of Portugal, left and center, Catherine II, Empress of Russia, right)
Old Wedgwood, the decorative or artistic ceramic work, in colour and relief, invented and produced by Josiah Wedgwood, at Etruria, in Staffordshire, 1760-1794; with sixty-seven full page illustrations in the colour of originals, and smaller wood-blocks; biographical and descriptive chapters, a list of marks used at Etruria, and explanatory text to each object illustrated by Frederick Rathbone. (published 1898)

Art persan : tapis.
In: L'ornement polychrome...motifs de tous les styles, art ancien et asiatique, Moyen Age, Renaissance, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles... / A. Racinet. (published [188-?])
Racinet, A. (Auguste), 1825-1893 -- unknown role; Durin, F. -- Lithographer; Grivell -- Artist

Searching through the project's monumental (though easily navigatable) database is tremendously inspirational, a dream resource for anyone interested in the history of design.

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