Pietro PIANA, University of Genova, Italy
Charles WATKINS, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
In recent years the opening up of art galleries, archives, libraries, and some private collections through web-based platforms has allowed open access to many thousand of historical images, which were formerly hidden away in often poorly catalogued archives and libraries. The new digital availability of images has dramatically changed the way in which geographers can use art (Godlewska et al., 2005; Barrell, 2013; Piana and Watkins, 2020). Many museums have excellent sites, including Yale Center for British Art, the Rijksmuseum and the British Museum. Other ventures aim to encourage private collectors and institutions to make watercolours previously unknown to researchers publicly available. It is the case of Watercolour World, a UK-based charity which is working with public and private collectors to create an open access database of watercolours painted before 1900.
This paper introduces a novel database on Italian and British topographical views in NW Italy between 1800 and 1920 as part of a research project on the value of such sources for landscape history (Piana et al., 2021). The images are catalogued and described based on the artists who produced them, the title, date, medium and material used, dimensions, genre and subjects they depict. The database, which consists of 438 items including watercolours, pen and pencil drawings, oil paintings and prints has served as operational basis for the development of a series of research themes where topographical art is used to study the landscape dynamic of Liguria, Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. At the same time, the database has been inserted into an open source web-publishing platform where a geolocation plugin allows the precise location of the views in a present-day map. By presenting the database, the aim of the paper is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such web-based open access platforms as ways to engage the public on landscape change and to provide valuable tools for landscape management policies.
Mots clés : Geolocated database|Topographical art|Landscape dynamic|NW Italy