In an unprecedented effort to open new avenues for art historical research, The Frick Collection has partnered with thirteen art institutions to establish the PHAROS Art Research Consortium, a digital research platform that will revolutionize access to photoarchives around the world.
Led by Inge Reist, director of the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting and president of the international consortium, this long-term initiative will bring together photoarchive materials relating to more than 25 million works of art. These collections of images are also rich in previously unpublished related art historical documentation.
Seven million images from the original partners are expected to be digitized and available by 2020, with future timelines for the group to be developed. Eventually, PHAROS will expand to include records from additional photoarchives worldwide. PHAROS currently comprises the:
- Bibliotheca Hertziana (Rome)
- Bildarchiv Foto (Marburg, Germany)
- Courtauld Institute (London)
- Fondazione Federico Zeri (Bologna)
- Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles)
- I Tatti (Florence)
- Institut national d’histoire de l’art (Paris)
- Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz
- National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
- Paul Mellon Centre (London)
- RKD –Netherlands Institute for Art History (The Hague)
- Warburg Institute (London)
- Yale Center for British Art (New Haven)
- Frick Art Reference Library (New York).
In December 2016 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a $1 million grant in support of the Frick’s efforts to provide online access to its photoarchive, which, by extension, will benefit PHAROS. With this grant, the Frick will make accessible a quarter of a million images with their accompanying documentation. The eighteen-month project will largely complete the goal of making the Frick photoarchive available online and establishing a model for other participating institutions, while preserving them for posterity.
Image-Recognition Search Technology
PHAROS includes enhanced features and applications such as software that enables searching by image instead of by text, of great benefit because text from the multiple institutions can differ in both content and language. Using the proprietary image-recognition technology developed for PHAROS by John Resig, supported by grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, those interested in Italian art are already able to find and compile multiple images and the related documentation as recorded by the different photoarchives in different languages in seconds.
Currently, more than 20% of the works of art recorded in the Frick’s photoarchive can be accessed online. At the conclusion of the project supported by the Mellon Foundation, an additional 250,000 photographs and information about the works of art they document will be accessible through the Frick Digital Collections, NYARC Discovery, FRESCO, Arcade, and the Artstor Digital Library.