Yale Makes Extensive Digital Image Collection Available to the Public

Sepia-toned rocking chair on a front porchRural American Baroque by Ralph Steiner/via Yale Digital Commons

The above image comes from Yale University’s Yale Digital Commons, a digital collection of images recently made available for online public access and use.  According to Yale’s news release:

Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.

The goal of the new policy is to make high quality digital images of Yale’s vast cultural heritage collections in the public domain openly and freely available.

Thank you to Yale for providing this valuable service.

This photograph was taken in 1929 by Ralph Steiner, an American photographer of Czech origin, and was donated to Yale in 1932 by one George Hopper Fitch. What initially interests me about this image is the title: Rural American Baroque. Steiner can rightly call the image rural because it recalls the confirmed rural practice of front porch sitting. But the addition of Baroque complicates the issue because Baroque is not something that one normally associates with rural America, nor is the chair really reflective of iconic Baroque style, which generally refers to an artistic or design style that is very ornate and highly decorated. Perhaps the photographer is referring to the the chair’s decorative scroll pattern, which is something like Baroque in that it is decorative and not simply utilitarian.  The addition of Baroque suggests a nice contradiction to traditional or common notions of rural as connoting simple, no-frills sort of design and lifestyle.

This photograph is visually interesting because the doppelganger shadow of the chair is more visible than the chair itself. Even though the chair itself is centered in the photograph and appears to be the subject, the shadow continually draws my attention away from the chair. It seems then that the shadow is the true subject of this photograph, especially because it is in the shadow that one can more clearly see the Baroque-like style which is referred to in the photograph’s title.

-Josie Javens

2 Responses to “Yale Makes Extensive Digital Image Collection Available to the Public”

  • Ivan:

    CCD is fantastic. Both from a cultural/technical standpoint, but strongly from a copyright perspective: the entire collection is now usable in other creative works, both as inspiration and source material. I immediately stumbled upon a map of the world, and recalled the early world circumnavigation heroes. No front porch sitting for these lads, no…

    “A True description of the naval expedition of Francis Drake, Englishman & Knight, who with five ships departed from the western part of England on 13 December 1577, circumnavigated the globe and returned on 26 September 1580 with one ship remain ing, the others having been destroyed by waves or fire.”
    (from http://tappinginto.org/yales-digital-collection-opens)

    Yeah, fire and flames. Got the point. Mind if I return to my rocker chair? And you’re right, the shadow does steal the show.

  • Ivan:

    Oh, I now hit upon your page on Fair use. Good write-up, and well related to the CCD as well. Love the banner!

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