Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Arms and Armor at the Met

This digital exhibit provides images that highlight the contents of the Arms and Armor Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. The digital collection contains approximately 50 objects, while the physical exhibit consists of about 15,000. According to the collection description, some objects were purchased as early as 1881, making this one of the long-standing and distinguished arms and armor collections worldwide. The materials date in range from 400 B.C.E. to the 19th century. According to the site, the collection strengths are in the areas of Japanese and European armor, and so it appears that this may be the premise for any selection criteria in both purchases, and in the online exhibit.

The metadata for the collection applies only to the physical object, and not the digital object. The materials are organized “by country of origin and, within countries, chronologically,” according to the website. Each work is described with a historical note, and provenance. In some cases, there is another descriptive component about “signatures, inscriptions, and markings.” As might be expected, the descriptions provide the artist or creator (when available), the country of origin, the media, and the physical dimensions of each work of art. No metadata is available pertaining to any digital information. However, at the top of each page, there is a link to “note to reader,” which is a helpful tool describing various entry abbreviations and other facts about the online collection.

Some features of the digital images include the zoom manipulation, which provides very high quality detail for each object. The images can also be searched by title or type, artist, date or accession number. The advanced search expands these features to include country of origin, media, and usage rights, among others. There is no information provided about the resolution of the image, or any access restrictions. There is also no description of the digitization mechanisms.

The audience for the digital collection may be broad. While it is useful to the general public, researchers may also take an interest in viewing the materials online since the zoom feature provides high quality detail.

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