04 August 2009
The Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource
It is almost inconceivable that one institution could have as many as 2,300 works by the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates, and perhaps even more unbelievable that all of them could be digitized and made available online. Yet it's true. All of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's massive collection—paintings and drawings major, minor, iconic, and forgotten—is now on the Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource. I can't say too many good things about this remarkable "resource." The images are superb (produced with Microsoft's Silverlight technology which captures minute detail, even when zoomed in at almost microscopic levels). Access is by a first-rate search mechanism simultaneously providing ease-of-use and an elaborate filtering mechanism, enabling both casual viewing and research by specialists. A search for Rossetti returns 385 items, for Morris over 600, and for Burne-Jones an astonishing 1,035. There are detailed notes and thematic introductions which use selected works to focus on gender and sexuality, history, particular figures, wood engraving, illustration, and other subjects. (You can also set up and publish your own personal collection of images and their is a built-in discussion area.) Rebecca West once wrote that Max Beerbohm's broadcasts alone justified the invention of radio; Birmingham's site perhaps does not by itself justify the existence of the internet but it does show what can be accomplished when talent, scholarship, good design—and money—are applied to art and culture. Visit and you may be stuck there for hours.