“What more could art scholarship achieve if it were open?” (Watkins, 2015). Discuss, with particular reference to the adoption and promotion of open access within the Arts.

In the first year of my Masters, for the module INF6200 Academic and Workplace Library, Information and Knowledge Services, I had to write an essay about Open Access or Open Science and a topic of my choice.

Photo by Ezequiel Da Silva on Pexels.com

Of course I chose the arts as it’s something I’m interested in.
I’ll tell you now my essay got a solid middle of the road B! Nothing bad about that, but I don’t want anyone reading this thinking this is some first class content. With work (and a bigger word count) maybe it could be. I have been meaning to rewrite it and make it better, but sunshine and summer got in the way of those plans.

Hope you enjoy reading, give me any feedback, info, comments, extra stuff I maybe missed while researching – let me know! I’d love to rewrite this and make this better at some point.

“What more could art scholarship achieve if it were open?” (Watkins, 2015). Discuss, with particular reference to the adoption and promotion of open access within the Arts.

This paper investigates the adoption and promotion of open access [OA] within the Arts. For clarity the Arts, when mentioned in this paper, is defined as including art history and practicing artists and their very different needs when considering OA compared to that of the STEM subjects. Too often is art history separated from the practicing arts when the barriers of implementing OA are the same. Three institutional projects are examined and the success in which these projects aided OA. Where it can be established that definite forms of adoption and promotion have taken place in the arts this is fragmented and does not create uniformity across the sectors.  Consistency and standardisation is needed for OA to be fully accepted by the Arts.


The awareness of open access [OA] within academia has become more and more prominent over the last eight years. The conversation has moved on from whether OA can and should be accepted in academia to how to truly implement and embed OA within our institutions (Pinfield, 2015). When considering OA the first area of research which springs to mind is the science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM] subjects. The uptake of OA in these subjects has stormed ahead in many ways, though still far from a perfect OA landscape, due in part to the nature and the urgency in the research undertaken by these subjects; yet the humanities and the Arts are slowly following behind (Watkins, 2015). Focusing on arts subjects, specifically art history alongside the more practical subjects such as fine art, textiles and photography for example, there is much to unearth as to why this area of academia is delaying its engagement with OA.

The current state of the Arts and OA

One aspect that is valuable to consider primarily is that much of the literature concerning itself with OA and the Arts does not always specify exactly which area of Arts academia they are examining. There is value in looking not only at art historians and their research, which many texts investigate, but also the work of art practitioners. Art historians, like many other traditional academic areas, write papers, articles and present at conferences. These formats are the same formats in which the STEM subjects and many others use to promote their research. So why does it still appear, despite producing research in the same formats, that art historians are still behind when it comes to OA? The reasons are numerous. The monograph is an extremely desirable method of publishing for the Arts (Tomlin, 2011). Monographs take years to create and making these openly accessible is relatively slow with many university presses forging the way (Lockett & Speicher, 2016). The slow creation of monographs may also transfer to the slow creation and publication of articles. Arts research is not pursued with the same urgency that drives STEM subjects publishing; who rush to publish their research on new technological and medical advancements as soon as possible (Watkins, 2015). There is also the issue for the Arts, whether art historian or practicing artist, which is using images within research. Tomlin (2011) goes into great detail about the costs of using images in monographs stating that image copyright ‘restricts the circulation of image-based scholarship’ (p.8). Finally, where the problem certainly emerges for practicing artists is the variety of research outputs that can be created. The acceptance of OA must not only be found in easily identifiable and archivable text formatted research, which fits nicely into one famous OA definition (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002), but also non-textual forms of research. Various definitions do not consider the importance of the image and image copyright and how difficult this area is in relation to OA. The Arts is visual, it is about images, art work, photographs, videos. Artwork may not be easily recorded or easily archived. Many definitions that have been created to define OA do not consider the many formats research can take (Pinfield et al, 2014, Pinfield, 2009, Suber, 2012) and the further copyright issues this brings with it alongside the difficulties in recording this information concisely and clearly so when openly accessible it is valuable.

Three examples of implementing software to assist with OA in the Arts

One of the predominant forms of research in the Arts, which I have mentioned previously, is the monograph. Tomlin (2011) describes the monographs importance as “a model of exhaustive research and as a means of professional advancement” (p.6). With the reputation of monographs in this field this is again an area where OA is not as deeply ingrained. It is also worrying that libraries who house these monographs to share with their users are buying less of them (Thompson, 2002). How can this vital source of research from a large section of academia be fading away? One institution that has been investing resources in OA and the Arts is Heidelberg University. They provide three services via the platform arthistoricum.net for promoting open access in e-publishing: ARTDok a digital repository for individual publications and review articles, ARTJournals to manage complete e-journals and ART-Books a platform for monographs (Büttner, 2015). Heidelberg University has undoubtedly made progress in this problematic area of the Arts and OA, but yet another issue in this adoption and promotion of OA in the Arts is that between institutions and countries this is fragmented. Büttner (2015) states that the specialised platforms created are available to art historians from all over the world, but she fails to address the uptake of these services, who uses them and how often they are used.

The JISC funded KULTUR project in the UK was a similar project to Heidelberg University’s. Both used EPrints software and aimed to develop repositories that met the needs of Arts scholarship (White & Hemmings, 2010). The main difference between the two is where Heidelberg University’s focus is on OA and art historians KULTUR’s focus is on OA and practising artists and their work. The KULTUR projects aim was to design a repository that showcased ‘visual and time-based work and complex digital objects’ (White & Hemmings, 2010, p.30). A key issue, which is still very much present, is the difficulty to standardise the recording of metadata concerning works of art. White and Hemmings (2010) state that artists need the freedom to accurately describe their work, but to try and marry metadata that is both ‘flexible and consistent’ was a huge challenge (p.32). The KULTUR project and those involved looked further into how to explicitly show the “knowledge and experiential learning” that is so important to artists creating work, which cannot always be seen by the finished piece alone, and to make this information openly accessible (White & Hemmings, 2010, p.33). In an attempt to provide this context it was deemed necessary to add text in the form of reviews, links to relevant websites and gallery booklets (White & Hemmings, 2010). Everything the KULTUR project investigated was beneficial to the adoption of OA in the Arts. However, despite Southampton University who manage Eprints creating an ‘add on’ to the repository software, there is little in the article that suggests this was taken up by other institutions or used in the same way.

Artexte, a not-for-profit Canadian organisation, created e-artexte; an OA digital repository that appealed to “publishers, authors and artists in Canadian contemporary art” (MacDonald, Neugebauer, Latour, 2014, p.10). E-artexte brings together the two halves that are so often separated; art historians and practicing artists. It may be considered that e-artexte leans more towards practicing artists because of the focus on non-textual work, however this considers all sides of OA and the Arts more so than previous literature and institutions conducting similar projects. The variety of forms that arts research takes has been discussed, but e-artexte also considers the inclusion of exhibition ephemera and artists’ books (MacDonald et al. 2014). MacDonald et al. (2014) draw our attention to the 2008 Resolution on Copyright by the International Association of Research institutes in the History of Art [RIHA]. RIHA state that they “strongly believe that neither copyright nor licensing rules should inhibit the development and diffusion of original scholarly research, regardless of the way in which it is published or otherwise disseminated” (RIHA, 2008, p.1). Having a statement made by such a large professional body demonstrates that OA is moving forward on arts institutions agendas, but there is still much work to be done.
The above three cases show that institutions are invested and involved in creating spaces and promoting OA in the Arts, but it does not converge into one tangible message. The issues on how to record and deposit works of art and non-textual pieces and share these openly is where the sector internationally needs to unite and find solutions. It may sound impossible, but with the relative newness of OA and repositories there will be a period of disorder. It would be hopeful and beneficial to assume that at some point the Arts will engage as much as possible with OA and standardised methods will become apparent across sectors and institutions.


What can be interpreted from the adoption of OA in the Arts is that there are institutions investing resources into repositories and online spaces in which arts research can be shared freely and openly. The main issue is the diversity of arts research and the difficultly in standardising this in an international way. The material consulted has not specifically stated that they use the same framework as other subjects, such as the STEM subjects, however do the Arts need to break the mould and instead of copying from the sciences create their own definitions, rules and processes for OA in the Arts? (Watkins, 2015). After all with the sciences taking such a lead in OA have repositories, software and technology fitted around this instead of the wider academic sector? It is also worth noting the separation of art history and art historians to their practice-based counter parts is detrimental to the adoption of OA in this sector. Both groups face similar issues when considering the uptake of OA and only by converging will progress be made.

Reference List

Budapest Open Access Initiative [BOAI]. (2001) Retrieved March 24, 2018, from http://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/

Büttner, A. (2015). Art journals and monographs in open access: A collaborative effort. Art Libraries Journal, 40, 13-19. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/docview/1781146566?accountid=11526

Lockett, A., & Speicher, L. (2016). New university presses in the UK: Accessing a mission. Learned Publishing29(S1), 320-329. https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1049

Pinfield, S. (2009). Journals and repositories; An evolving relationship? Learned Publishing, 22(3), 165-175. http://dx.doi.org/10.1087/2009302

Pinfield, S., Salter, J., Bath, P. A., Hubbard, B., Millington, P., Anders, J. H. s., & Hussain, A. (2014). Open-access repositories worldwide, 2005-2012: Past growth, current characteristics, and future possibilities. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 65(12), 2404–2421. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/asi.23131

Pinfield, S. (2015). Making open access work: The ‘state-of-the-art’ in providing open access to scholarly literature. Online Information Review, 39(5), 604-636. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/OIR-05-2015-0167

The International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art [RIHA]. (2008) RIHA resolution on copyright. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from http://www.riha-institutes.org/Portals/11/RIHA_Copyright.pdf

Suber, P. (2004). Promoting open access in the humanities. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4729720/suber_promoting.htm?sequence=1

Suber, P. (2012). A very brief introduction to open access. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from

Thompson, J. W. (2002). The Death of the Scholarly Monograph in the Humanities? Citation Patterns in Literary Scholarship. Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Services, 52(3), 121-136.
Tomlin, P. (2011). Every man his book? An introduction to open access in the arts. Art Documentations: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 30(1), 4-11.

Watkins, A. (2015). Open access and the future of art scholarship. Art Libraries Journal, 40(4), 4-7. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1753267242?accountid=13828

White, W. & Hemmings, C. (2010) KULTUR: showcasing art through institutional repositories, Art Libraries Journal, 35(3), 30-34. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/161513/1/Kultur_article_Eprints_version.pdf

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