Friday, August 18, 2006

Time - 50 coolest websites - 4 sketches, 4,598 drawings and a sketchbook

Each year Time Magazine draws up a list of the 50 coolest websites. The one for 2006 was announced this week and includes "Drawn" the collaborative art blog - which focuses on the work of illustrators and cartoonists. Congratulations to those illustrators who read this blog and whose work contributed to Drawn winning this particular accolade!

Last year's Arts and Entertainment section of the 50 coolest websites in 2005 (oh how I HATE that method of categorisation) - covered "A party mix of amusements, from virtual art galleries to TV trivia to talk radio for your iPod, plus some of the best humor writing on the Web" and included two 'art' sites.

These are (and I quote from the article):

  • New York Public Library's Digital Gallery
    Lose yourself in this vast collection of rare prints, vintage maps, manuscripts, posters, photographs, sheet-music covers, dust jackets, menus, cigarette cards and other artifacts. There are more than 300,000 digital images of original materials available for viewing. Access is free, and you can download images to your computer for personal or research use.
  • The Museum of Online Museums
    This elegantly-designed portal links to established museum and gallery sites such as those run by the Museum of Modern Art, The Bauhaus Archive and The Art Institute of Chicago. It will also introduce you to countless other online collections, from Van Gogh's letters to Chinese postage stamps to Manhole Covers of the World. For more, go to the MoOM Annex.
I tried an experiment. I searched for 'sketches' in NYPL's digital gallery site - and found only four sketches out of 30,000 digital images here. I did rather better when searching for 'drawings' and unearthed 4,598 drawings. A search for 'sketchbooks' turned up just one record - but it was a Hokusai sketchbook! Take a look at this image as an example. I can think of a few bloggers who have a style which is not dissimilar! ;)

I was unable to search the second website. However a review of the list identified some sites which I knew should be good such as the British Library - and so it proved to be. It has an online gallery providing access to digital versions of some 15 great and rare books such as Leonardo's sketchbooks and the original 'Alice' written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll.

We didn't always have computers and we have been using our eyes and our hands to record things for a few thousand years. However one wonders, in this digital age, whether the hand drawn record of an event or a place is still valued? By way of contrast, isn't it remarkable that digital images now enable us to look at drawings and illustrations in books, notebooks and sketchbooks that simply wouldn't have been possible not that long ago. I'm inordinately grateful for the access - but wish that rather more drawings and sketchbooks were available online as these tend to be the most frail of records and are not often seen on public display.

What do you think of the impact of the digital age on visual records?

One final thing - the survey has made me think it would be great to have a poll of the art websites which people value and return to again and again to see which we think are the best sites. Would you be interested in sharing your favourite sites if I set something up?

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