Art historians, critics, curators, humanities scholars, and many others heavily rely on the records of artists, galleries, museums, and arts organizations to conduct historical research and gain insights into contemporary artistic practices. However, a significant portion of art-related materials that were once published in print form are now primarily or exclusively available on the web, making them inherently ephemeral. Recognizing this challenge, more than 40 art libraries have collaborated over the past three years to develop a collective approach to preserving web-based art materials on a large scale.
Supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities, this community, known as the Collaborative ART Archive (CARTA), has successfully coordinated efforts across libraries of all sizes, spanning locations from Manoa, Hawaii to Toronto, Ontario. Their work has resulted in the preservation and accessibility of 800 web-based art resources, organized into eight collections: art criticism, art fairs and events, art galleries, art history and scholarship, artists’ websites, arts education, arts organizations, and auction houses. The total data size of these collections currently amounts to nearly 9 terabytes, with ongoing growth. All collections are being preserved in perpetuity by the Internet Archive.
Today marks the exciting launch of the CARTA portal, which provides unified access to the CARTA collections. The portal encompasses web archive collections collaboratively developed by CARTA members, as well as existing art-related collections from CARTA institutions and non-CARTA member collections. The development of the CARTA portal draws upon the Internet Archive’s expertise in creating web archives such as the COVID-19 Web Archive and Community Webs portal.
Within the CARTA portal, users can search the collections by contributing organization, collection, site, and page text. Advanced search capabilities enable more detailed exploration by host, results per host, file types, and specific date ranges.
In addition to the CARTA portal, CARTA has actively worked to promote research utilization of the collections through a series of day-long computational research workshops called “Working to Advance Library Support for Web Archive Research,” which are supported by ARCH (Archives Research Compute Hub). The call for applications for the next workshop, taking place concurrently with the annual Society of American Archivists meeting, is currently open.
Looking ahead, CARTA’s objective is to expand and diversify its membership to enhance its collective capacity for preserving web-based art materials. If your art library is interested in joining CARTA, please express your interest through the provided channel.