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Technical Innovation in Art Historical Research: Opportunities and Problems

A seminar run by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel and Tim Benton at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College, London (20 November 2006).

(pdf) (html) Programme
(pdf) (html) Seminar report

The seminar began with presentations of two ongoing individual research projects by Professor Tim Benton of the Open University and Dr Anna Bentkowska-Kafel of the Courtauld Institute of Art and King's Visualization Lab, CCH, King's College, London. Tim Benton's recent research has been concerned with Le Corbusier's diaries and he addressed the problems associated with presenting this material in a robust and user-friendly way using database and web technologies.

Anna Bentkowska's presentation looked at the concept of digital iconology and its use for the classification of images which simultaneously represent nature in human forms and fantastical landscapes. Such images escape classification and make terms traditionally used in the history of art to describe pictorial genres redundant. In both case studies the use of imaging and other computing techniques has been crucial for: research organisation, the gathering of iconographical and textual evidence, data analysis and contextual studies, and the delivery of the research findings.

Following the presentations, participants were invited to discuss the broader issues surrounding the use of technical innovation in art historical research. Topics that were considered included:

  • What digital tools are required by art historians?
  • What criteria should be used for assessing cultural innovation in art historical research?
  • What are the problems associated with the preservation and dissemination of research involving technical methods?

AHDS Methods Taxonomy Terms

This item has been catalogued using a discipline and methods taxonomy. Learn more here.


  • Art and Design
  • History


  • Data Analysis - Content analysis
  • Data Analysis - Content-based image searching
  • Data Analysis - Image feature measurement
  • Data Analysis - Visual analysis/visualisation
  • Data Capture - 2d Scanning/photography
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Graphical resource sharing
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Presenting
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Data modelling - relational
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Image enhancement
  • Strategy and project management - Data protection
  • Strategy and project management - Documentation