Reviewed August 2019
Allie Thome, Systems & Web Librarian
Concordia College
athome@cord.edu

East Asian Scroll Paintings is a dynamic, searchable platform for viewing traditional East Asian handscroll paintings. Students and enthusiasts researching Asian art will appreciate the high level of detail available in the images hosted on this freely-accessible website. This project was created by the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago in collaboration with museums around the world. The site uses Drupal and the javascript image viewer, HandscrollViewer, which is an extension of the Seadragon image viewer. The HandscrollViewer code is open source and available for download on the project’s Github page. Although there are several open websites that offer users the ability to search for and view East Asian handscroll paintings, including Online Museum Resources on Asian Art, and online collections at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the East Asian Scroll Paintings site includes unique features that simplify the search and viewing process. 

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Because of their fragility, East Asian scroll paintings are rarely displayed publicly. The high-quality images and viewer technology available on this website allow users to zoom in on the scrolls to examine the finest details, including the texture of brushstrokes. The viewer technology is simple and intuitively designed with several helpful features. One can choose either to use the controls embedded in the top left-hand corner of the viewer or to zoom in and out using a mouse or trackpad.

Once users have clicked on the image they want to see, the site takes them to the right-hand side of the scroll because scrolls are meant to be viewed from right to left, with the left side of scrolls containing notes by the artist and previous owners of EASP 3the painting. A preview of the scroll at the top of the viewer identifies which part of the scroll is being viewed with a red box. The user can click and drag the box to quickly move further down the scroll, or just click on the part of the scroll they would like to view to be taken there immediately. The viewer technology includes an auto-scroll feature, but it only moves at one speed. Because of this, users may prefer to click and drag the image at their own pace. Viewer controls can be hidden for users who would prefer to focus on an image without distractions. The site includes the capability to compare two scrolls. 

EASP 4Although the East Asian Scroll Paintings website has many helpful search and filtering options, there are some problems with the search functionality of the website that may deter users. There are currently no paintings affiliated with several of the filtering options on the search page. Users might become frustrated when they choose a filter and find that their search produces no images. This feature has the potential to improve as additional paintings and metadata are added. Additionally, when searching for a title, the website automatically begins searching after the user has typed only a few characters. This may be problematic because users will have to continue clicking in the search box to begin typing each time the page refreshes. Because of these issues, users may prefer to browse through the list of paintings rather than using the search and filtering options. Once a user finds a painting they want to view, they can click on the thumbnail image or title to get to the image viewer. This page includes helpful metadata, including the title, artist, museum, collection, era, materials, and size. Unfortunately, this text cannot be highlighted, so it cannot be directly copied and pasted from this page. 

Although this website helpfully collects and makes available high-quality digital reproductions of East Asian scroll paintings, users might find it difficult to use the site’s native search and filtering options. However, once a user has found the painting they want to view, the site’s Image Viewer technology will allow them to easily view these large images.