Review of ARTStor Digital Library


The ARTStor Digital library includes close to 300 collections with about 2 million images. The Digital Library consists of Private Collections held by many prestigious museums, universities, artists’ libraries, and photo archives. One can find images of objects contributed by The Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Peabody Museum for Archaeology and Ethnology, The Warburg Institute, The Rijksmuseum from the Netherlands, among many others.

The Digital Library also includes several Public Collections that store some 1.3 million images, videos, documents and audio files from libraries’ special collections, faculty research, and other institutional materials. Public collections are cataloged, managed, and shared by institutions such as Cornell University, Colby College, RISD, and MIT using JStor Forum.

Here you can find a complete list of the Collections included in the Digital Library.


ARTStor was first started by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation during the 1990s. The initial goal was to facilitate the use of digital images for research and teaching in the arts and humanities. Since then, the number of contributors has grown to include some of the most prestigious museums in North America, Europe and Asia. Here you can find more on ARTStor’s Mission and History.


Materials available in the database range from antiquity to the twentieth century and include objects from all five continents. The Digital Library includes digital versions of a wide range of objects from paintings and sculptures, to photography, architecture, audio, and video. Some collections consist of more than 10,000 items, while others can hold less than 100.

Each collection is curated to include a selection of objects held at particular institutions. These items have been selected for their importance to the educational mission of ARTStor. According to the “About ARTStor” page, items included in the collections have also been “rights-cleared for use in education and research”. However, items held in collections outside the United States may still be protected by the laws of the countries where they are held. Users are advised to check the Terms and Conditions of each collections to ensure proper use if individual items.


ARTSTOR is published by ITHAKA a non-profit organization that aims to facilitate the use of digital technologies for researchers and teachers. 

Search and View Options.

  • It is possible to run both Keyword and Advanced Searches of the Digital Library. An Advanced search can be done by Creator, Title, Location, Repository, Subject, Material, Style/Period, Work Type, Technique, Number, SSID, and Repository ID. It is also possible to narrow searches by date, collection, classification, and geographical location. 
  • The “About ARTStor” page in the site states that “images come with high-quality metadata from the collection catalogers, curators, institutions, and artists themselves.” Given the diversity of objects and repositories, there are some differences in the types of Metadata used in different collections. Equally, not all collections provide the same degree of information on their Metadata practices.
  • ARTStor images can also be found through JStor.
  • The Support page includes detailed instructions on how to conduct different kinds of searches.
  • The Search options in ARTStor are useful and easy to use. There are many ways to expand and limit searches. There is also the possibility to browse collections, which I found very useful.
  • The ease for Browsing and Viewing items in the Private Collections is not always consistent. In some cases, when a user chooses to explore a particular collection, they are directed to an institutional site outside of the ARTStor interface, where there browsing and viewing experience is different from what is the standard in ARTStor. I found that a couple of the links to external sites were no longer active. There is a way to contact ARTStor to inform them of these problems.

Other tools and features.

  • Powerpoint Assistance: It is possible to download images directly into a Powerpoint presentation together with citation data.
  • IIIF Image viewer: this allows to see images in full screen and compare up to ten items at once.
  • Groups: It allows the user to organize groups of images for specific lectures, courses, or to share through a course management system. Groups of images can also be turned into flashcards to help students study and also create citations in different citation styles.


  • Access to the Private Collections is granted to contributing institutions and libraries through subscription. Pricing for institutions in the United States is calculated using the Carnegie classification and is as follows: Very Large: $16000, Large $11,500, Medium $6,950, Small $4,250 and Very small $2,500. 
  • In 2018 ARTStor started to offer free access to its public collections and to the collections from JStor Forum contributing institutions. 

Other Reviews

Terms of Use and Citation.

  • Given that individual items have been contributed by different institutions, there are also different citation requirements. Fortunately, it is possible to have the site generate the correct citation.
  • Each collection has been curated to include items that have been cleared for educational, research and other non-commercial uses. However, items from foreign institutions may still be subject to different copyright laws and rules. Individual items include the necessary information about rights and permissions.

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