CIHA London 2000.
Thirtieth International Congress of the History of Art
Art History for the Millenium: Time.
Section 23
Digital Art History Time
London, 3-8 September 2000

Marleen Hoover <> or <>, Instructor Art History, San Antonio College.

Joan Fabian <> and <>, Image Resource Specialist, Visual Arts and Technology Center, San Antonio College.

San Antonio College, 1300 San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio, Texas 78212 U.S.A.. Voice: 210 . 785-6340. Fax: 210 . 733.2987.

Developing and Accessing Digitized Images in the Classroom 

Illustration from registration document for Art History for the Millennium:  Time
 © each author has full responsibility in owning copyright on the texts and on the images they publish on this website

          San Antonio College, part of the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio, Texas, offers Fine Art and Graphic Art two-year degrees through its Visual Arts and Technology Department.  Perhaps as a result of combining under one "roof" both fine and graphic art, graphic art methodology in which computer technology has been essential to the industry, it seemed only natural that the computer would begin to extend itself to fine art instruction in studio and art history courses. 

          The Visual Arts and Technology Department has succeeded in creating a digital data base of images for instructional use in teaching all areas of art history and studio arts.  This took perseverance and dedication to the idea of using new technology to advance the teaching of art.  In the early 1990's the college made a commitment to the development of educational technology through budget commitments of computers, software, and faculty training.  Through various district-wide, college, and departmental grants and other assistance, computers, LCD projectors,  scanners, digital cameras, as well as appropriate software such as Microsoft Word with Power Point, Adobe, and html programs became available to faculty workstations college-wide.  A district-wide server, internet connections, intranet 'ethernet' connections, and finally a departmental server all contributed to making possible the use of digitized images in the classroom.  Without the groundwork laid and the commitments described here, none of the classroom developments would have been possible.

          We would like to begin by describing what is not only possible in the classroom today, for the teaching of art history and art appreciation, but what is currently happening in the classroom here at San Antonio College.  Our  Image Resource Center contains 18,000 art slide images, of which approximately 8,000 are considered "good" images.  To date we have 11,000 "good" digital images which have been scanned from slides, textbooks, and other sources.  The images are scanned in Adobe Photoshop and saved at their maximum resolution;  colors can be adjusted and corrected, sometimes to make up for poor quality slides or photographs.  The images are then catalogued in a Portfolio cataloguing software application, which provides for item information, categories, key wording, and the creation of new galleries and catalogues by individual instructors.  The images are saved as JPGs  and are available only on the departmental server, with access by instructors through passwords.

           Portfolio allows the instructor to pull up, on the computer screen, all the images from a given textbook, chapter by chapter.  The images may be viewed  in thumbnail, or selected and enlarged.  Details may be viewed by zooming in.  The images may also be viewed as a "slideshow."  Images in the Portfolio data base may also be pulled out to create new catalogues and galleries in order to arrange the images in sequences different from the textbook presentation.  Images from other sources -- such as other textbooks, images scanned, or downloaded -- may also be inserted into the newly created catalogues and galleries, which may then be saved on the instructor's workstation hard drive or to a zip disc.  The advantage of working in this way should be seen immediately by anyone who has had to select slides (and hopefully being able to get the "good" slides), arrange them into carousels, and after class, return them. 

Altered image of a Paleolithic cave drawing

          Images may be corrected and altered in Photoshop or other graphic image program.  Saved separately as a JPG or GIF images may also be placed in Power Point and HTML applications.  Many of our instructors save whole lectures in a Power Point software format to use in future classes, adding an image or so as they go and build onto new lectures.  Anything placed on an instructor's hard drive or zip can be pulled up in the classroom to be projected for student viewing just like the slides of old.  Connected to the Internet in the classroom, instructors may also go to any website and project those images.  A split-screen, thanks to Windows,  will provide a comparision between the textbook image and one from a museum half across the world.   Hot links to Internet sites arranged in advance can provide images well beyond the college's image resource holdings, and the links themselves can be placed in a computer file for the instructor's later use or on a floppy disc to be saved for another semester.

          Once set up and functioning, digitized images coupled with a good retrieval system and projection capabilities, clearly save time -- but not all art history and art appreciation faculty at San Antonio College welcomed the digital imagery and the new technology.  One issue was that of the quality of the image.  For viewing in a Graphic Art classroom by individual students at individual computers, or in an Art Studio classroom on a large TV screen, the quality of the image in terms of color and clarity was as good, if not better, than projected slides.  However, when projected at a distance to a wall or screen, digitized images could fade or become pixilated.  Improvements and replacements in hardware such as scanners and projectors vastly improve the quality of the projected images. On-going faculty training, informally at the departmental level and formally in workshops sponsored by the college at its Instructional Innovations Center  increases the possibilty of good images being handled properly.  We have compared the quality of professionally produced digitized images on a CD-ROM to our own images, scanned or photographed with a digital camera, and found no significant difference.  The quality of our images continues to improve because of equipment and training. 

          The other issue was those faculty members who were too timid or afraid to venture into the world of computer technology.  With appropriate coaching and training by senior faculty, our 'webmaster,'  IIC, the Image Resource Specialist, and others already committed to digitized images, fears have been abated and problems have been solved.  ALL of our art faculty -- studio art, graphic art, art lecture, full-time and adjunct  -- use digitized images.  New faculty members are trained quickly and thus far have been eager to learn the new technology, amazed at the potential to bring many more images from museums around the world into their classrooms. 

Section of the Bayeux Tapestry

          The image above, a section of the Bayeux Tapestry, is one of many, used in any number of formats, sizes, and applications and, like the other "11,000" good digitized images in our Image Resource Center, available at a click of the mouse to be projected, saved, placed into a lecture or on-line.  Our art history and art appreciation instructors have also created their lectures for on-line viewing in the classroom.  These on-line lectures are used as others might use lecture notes or 'templates' for individual lectures, and we continually search for better images.  On-line lectures, although usually limited to classroom use,  may also be available to students for studying at home.  Instructors have also discovered that Power Point and other programs may be used for exams in the classroom, and are far more efficient in coupling the image with the question. 

          San Antonio College, and the Alamo Community College District, is also committed to distance education and encourages its faculty to develop Internet based courses.  To date, we have two art history courses -- Art History Survey I and Art History Survey II -- on-line.  Art History Survey I has been offered on-line since the fall of 1998 and Art History Survey II since the fall of 1999.  Both classes have been filled to capacity since their inception.  Another section of Art History Survey II is currently being developed by another instructor, as well as an on-line course in Art Appreciation. 

          Those who criticize the value of the digitized image, the clarity of the projected networked or internet site, the accessibility or the download time, would do well to remember the faded, red-tinted slides, the broken glass slides or cardboard mounts jammed into the projector, the bulb exploding or burning out in the middle of an exam.  As good as the newest technology is, it is just a tool for promoting was we really love -- the art itself, still better than any image could be. 




Title of Paper:

"Developing and Accessing Digitized Images in the Classroom"

Titles and No. Of Sections:

"Web Sites and Other Digital Sources in Art History" Section 23.3


1. Title: "Developing and Accessing Digitized Images in the Classroom"

2. The Aims and Objectives: The Visual Arts and Technology Center of San Antonio College has digitized images from the art and art history text books currently in use and is in the process of digitizing its entire image collection. This paper will share our experiences in developing digitized images for uses in the classroom as well as our experiences in preparing faculty to use the images.

3. Summary description: To be discussed in the paper are: 1) our rationale and methodology for digitizing, including the basis for selection and cataloguing of the images; 2) issues of quality of the images related to scanning, retrieval, and classroom display; and 3) faculty insights regarding the potential for enhanced art history education.

4. Central argument: This paper relates actual experiences and knowledge rather than proposing an argument or thesis to be tested.

5. Relationship to theme: This paper relates to the theme by exploring the experience of new technology as it leads to innovations in learning and teaching.


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