Reviewed December 2019
Art & Architectural Historian and Reference Librarian, South Orange Public Library
The Art & Architecture ePortal (A&AePortal) is an innovative and dynamic platform providing students and scholars of the histories art and architecture a centralized portal through which they can access content from ten significant university and museum publishers, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University Press, MIT Press, Princeton University Press, Yale University Art Gallery, among others. Organized by Yale University Press and funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Portal helps make content and images from these publications available, searchable, and discoverable. It also provides access to out-of-print titles.
What is exciting about the A&AePortal is that it functions as a web between the content and images in the eBooks giving access and helping students and scholars to discover relevant links and additional content and images. It also gives instructors the option of creating coursepacks. An institutional subscription is required for accessing most eBook content, or one can purchase the eBook without an institutional subscription. Some resources are free to access. When conducting a search, it is possible to refine it to only include free resources. An individual can create a free personal login that allows them to create their own “library” including a bookshelf, highlighted material, notes, and citations, which is saved and can be accessed on subsequent visits to the site.
The search function for eBooks brings the researcher to the precise chapter containing relevant information. If the book is not free, a user can still browse the table of contents and read an excerpt from the eBook before purchasing. The images are accessible to subscribers and non-subscribers, and the site provides a finely tuned search tool to locate a work of art, or the option of a keyword search to discover works that meet search criteria. The Portal provides information on each work, including repository links, as well as eBook chapters in which the image is located and related material that shares tags.
One of the highlights of this tool is the interconnection between eBooks and images, and the metadata tagging. Each eBook and image includes deep tagging, allowing users to cull material and images that meet their specific research needs with ease, as well as discover new resources through suggested subject tags. Researchers can find scholarship and images that are relevant to their research simply by inputting a few keywords. One can also browse by subject matter, author, and publisher. The option to highlight, create notes, share, or cite is available on each page.
Overall the site is a well-designed, easily and intuitively navigable, efficiently organized treasure trove of content and images for students and scholars of art and architectural history. The site is aesthetically pleasing, making good use of high quality and visually appealing images, and clean design.
On first look, the platform gives the impression of being a robust collection with many subject headings, however beneath each subject heading, the number of titles in the collection varies significantly with fifty-one titles under Modern and Contemporary to just three under Decorative Arts. The Portal currently includes 166 book titles, and 29,151 images. According to the site, more titles are being added monthly.
Launched in 2018, the A&AePortal has created a revolutionary platform and format for sharing art and architectural history eBook content and images. Though still in its nascent phase, one can see how this platform could grow into an essential resource for the fields of architecture and art history. It is designed with endless possibilities and growth potential for making resources available to students and scholars.