Facilitate research through group catalogs

The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies
The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies, Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom, 1599, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

"It is to be expected that if Art Discovery is successful and keeps evolving, it could relieve the need for libraries to purchase and implement expensive and untested commercial discovery products."

Geert-Jan Koot
Head of the Rijksmuseum Research Library

If you've wandered through an art museum, you know that the highlighted artwork wasn't always the one that spoke to you. Sometimes, the less "important" work made your heart sing. You wanted to know the story behind it. You Googled the title, but in the sea of results, you didn't even find an image. Wikipedia had little biographic information on the artist and almost nothing on the year "your" piece was created. You wanted to learn more. But how?

"I believe that with bibliographical and digital repositories expanding exponentially, there need to be technical solutions to help researchers find trusted information," said Geert-Jan Koot, Head of the Rijksmuseum Research Library. Since 1999, part of the solution had been artlibraries.net, which mined the online databases of participating art libraries. But this system had limitations. Through conversations about the concern for international art library funding, art librarians, art historians, publishers and information technologists in the American and European art historical community developed the Future of Art Bibliography (FAB) group, which hosted international meetings "to look for new ways of facilitating art historical research collaboratively."

The FAB turned to WorldCat® after noticing that it already contained the holdings of many artlibraries.net participants. In addition, access to "thousands of commercial and freely accessible collections, portals and repositories provided by OCLC" was available through the WorldCat central index, Geert-Jan explained. "As a result of this wealth of bibliographic information, we realized that a true discovery tool for art historical research could be realized. We called it Art Discovery."

"The benefit of this move to WorldCat is how scalable it is. Libraries that were not members of the artlibraries.net can now become part of the group catalog."

The Art Discovery Group Catalogue, which Geert-Jan calls "the largest and most comprehensive bibliographic tool for art-historical and art-related research," currently contains the catalogs of more than 60 libraries from 12 countries. Geert-Jan noted that the Art Discovery Group Catalogue quickly returns results that are "enriched with additional sources like bibliographic databases, full-text repositories and image collections. This results in lists of hits remarkably richer than in any other environment."

Whether you're a dedicated art researcher or a museum patron who experienced a transcendent moment in front of a little-known piece, the Art Discovery Group Catalogue helps you find resources that dive deeper into the story behind the art.

Services used by the Rijksmuseum


GoNext Centraal

Map showing location of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Library at a glance

  • The Rijksmuseum Research Library art history collection is the most extensive in the Netherlands
  • A large portion of the catalog is available online to facilitate access
  • The library supports the mission of the Rijksmuseum and seeks to enhance the role of nationally important academic art libraries
  • The Art Discovery Group Catalogue was launched in May 2014 and is endorsed by the IFLA Section of Art Libraries

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