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Day 6: Data Mining

Today we played with several tools. I already posted the visualization of words that appear multiple times in an article by Anne Derbes. That was cool. Only, I don't know how I got a PDF to work in it because they are not supposed to work. I don't have any idea how I might do that again. I tried tonight; no go.

Tomorrow we dive back into data mining, but we talk more about visualizations, and what I think I heard was also a discussion of how traditional DH text mining can be translated into art historical methods and processes. Because we do sort of work with images. Texts are all nice and everything, but art historians tend to gravitate towards seeing stuff (I have remarked that Sheila and Sharon must get a kick out of what we ooh! and ahh! over; every now and then some visual manifestation appears and you'd think we were witnessing a new heavenly orb based on our reactions).

Tonight I did another ARTstor search (logging on through my school's off-campus log-in account). I found a few more images of the Eleousa-inspired Italo-Byzantine panel paintings. Right now I'm dealing with bust-length, 13th century, Tuscan-produced versions. I have about 10 of them. Several of the ARTstor ones are black and white (whaaaa) and I may try to run a TinEye search to see if I can find other ones. I think one was from that photographic Frick collection that was in one of our readings.

But my questions tonight are:

1. How can you (or can you?) export ARTstor image metadata into a file? They have the Offline Image Viewer and a way to export the IMAGES into Powerpoint...but what about the data? I am salivating over the idea of being able to take a whole image group (like my bust-length Eleousa-inspired Madonna and Child image group) and get ALL THE INFO in an excel spreadsheet. Oh, how fab if you could do that....can you do that?).

2. How can I find better quality digital images of these black and white ones?

3. What questions do I want to ask of these images? Do I want to make a searchable database? What are we searching for? My initial thought is to start with the Eleousa-type images. The Eleousa type of Virgin and Child picture in Byzantium is like this, on the left below, known as the Virgin of Vladimir from 1130 or so  (and it is one of my favorites of all time):

(9-29)virgin(theotokos)andchildicon(vladimirvirgin)-m1323971654402  lot-5 (2)-1

And then the one to the right above, which is an Italian version of the Byzantine theme from around 1285-90.

In this case the compositions are "flipped," and there are other iconographic differences as well.  But I'm not sure how DH inquiry is going to help here. I need to talk to more people about this - and think about it more.

4. I am still on the fence about mapping. In many cases the provenance of these images falls of the edge of the earth around 1920. Most do not have provenances (that I have been able to find) that reach all the way back to the thirteenth century. So mapping their location at creation might be a dead-end. But maybe searching by iconographic type? I mean, I have had to do a TON of work just finding all these suckers and then arranging them in a way that they are grouped and thus comparable. That's adding to the field, is it not?

Still thinking. And looking forward to tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “Day 6: Data Mining

  1. Stephanie

    The geolocation feature on Omeka might be the tool you want to use. With this you can plot the origin on the image and the map will show up when you view each individual item.

    1. admin

      Yes. I noticed that the one in the Oberlin Museum was put on the map. I am not sure I will be able to find all of the origins of the images (as in where they were painted in the thirteenth century) but this would be helpful to scholars - to know where the paintings are now. Thank you, Stephanie!

  2. Matt Plummer

    Hi there,
    This looks like an intriguing project and it's great to get these informative updates! If you download an image group in artstor as a zip file you are also provided with html files for each image which contain the relevant metadata. It should be possible to write a script that assists with the process of populating an Excel spreadsheet with this info (rather than a slow, cumbersome and repetitive copy and paste). I'll ask someone with more expertise than I have to see if we can come up with something.

    It might be an idea to ask Artstor if they would consider providing a spreadsheet export option containing the metadata for an image group - as they are likely to have the info in a compatible format in their database.

    Look forward to hearing how you go with this, hope to keep the conversation going!

    1. admin


      Thanks for the comment. The next day I was able to get an export of a text file and somehow got it into an excel file, though it was from cutting and pasting the information/data.

      I plan to have some of my undergraduate students work on this project with me as part of my online undergrad class on Byzantine art. I'm going to have as one project helping me to build my Omeka site and to have each of them responsible for one panel painting to research and ready for the Omeka site. I want to both have students learn about the importance of data and to also help build the image collection and think about what it can do for scholarship.

      Do you have a contact at ARTstor? It would be great if they could make an export option like that. They have, understandably, been focused on image and their availability. But it would seem that as the Digital Humanities start to get art historians into the fray that data export in different forms would be very helpful and useful.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. Matt Plummer

        I contacted Artstor about this yesterday, this was the repsonse:

        "You cannot, via Arstor Digital Library, specifically export an image file's metadata to a spreadsheet. However, our data management software, Shared Shelf, does! Shared Shelf allows you to export existing records, make global edits in Microsoft Excel™, and then import your revised data back into Shared Shelf. Shared Shelf also allows you to import metadata first from an Excel spreadsheet and load corresponding media files later.

        If you and your institution are interested in finding out more regarding Shared Shelf, do please let me know, and I will put you in touch with one of our Shared Shelf experts.
        Christina Riley
        User Services Assistant

        I also came across this article yesterday which is pretty intriguing (the study it comments on is here . Good luck with the Omeka site too - I plan on developing one for a Digital Literacy/Historical Thinking project I'm involved in.

        1. admin

          Matt -
          It has been awhile (nearly a year) but I am back at work on this project. I am wondering how you are doing with yours?

  3. Matt Plummer

    Hi Gretchen, apologies for the much belated response - just came across your question while revisiting your site (guess I should have checked the 'notify comments by email box!).

    Working on a number of projects more or less in this area, here's one on historical thinking you might be interested in given your Reacting To the Past Project experience:

    Also doing some tinkering with Storymap (, will let you know when there are some results online

    Hope all's well with you and your various projects

    1. Gretchen McKay

      Great to hear from you, Matt. Will check out those links!
      Any suggestions on how to get more traction online with these types of sites/projects? I wish I had more time to devote to them...
      Will you by chance be at AACU in DC in January or at CAA, also in DC this year, in Feb?

  4. Matt Plummer

    Getting more traction is a tricky one, we struggle with the same issue but connecting with like minded communities on Twitter seems like one useful avenue. Would love to head to DC, but unfortunately being from New Zealand means it's a bit of a trek!


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