Executive  summaryChapter1Chapter2Chapter3



The Fowler museum worked with faculty in the first and second years to create a course in African art. Approximately half of their images were selected in response to faculty requests, while half were chosen based on the museum's priorities. In the second year, the Fowler made thumbnail and full screen versions of its entire imaged collection of 37,000 items available on the Web for the faculty to view. The Fowler describes content selection as "the weakest part of the project," and were frustrated with instructors' inability to make full, effective use of supplied material. They blame the immaturity of the technology, lack of previously digitized collections, and lack of faculty awareness of technology and images available. The Fowler's post-MESL report emphasizes the need for direct contact between university faculty and curatorial staff in future collaborative projects.

Various curators as well as the Director of Information Systems were involved in MESL content selection at the Fowler.

George Eastman House

George Eastman House had no experience with digital collections, and had no existing digital images to share. They selected images that would be fast and easy to digitize, given the time constraints, and did not incorporate input from faculty. In the second year, George Eastman House selected images that had been previously unavailable for viewing, and made them accessible to educational communities for the first time. Like The Fowler, GEH reported frustration in communicating with the universities. Staff involved in the content selection process included the Manager of Information Systems, Education Director, and Curator.


The Harvard University Art Museums' first year selection process included distributing extensive printouts of object level data to faculty and project coordinators at the universities and using feedback to choose images. The HUAM MESL Project Coordinator evaluated the results and tried to provide images that would be as useful as possible to the universities. However, the images were still confined to the most popular and frequently published parts of the HUAM collection. Harvard's labor-intensive selection process of polling each of the universities required more staff, and the HUAM ended up with approximately double the amount of time spent on content selection as the other museums. For the second year, internal priorities drove the selection process more than the first year (HUAM included images they were digitizing for their own Web site), but the museum did add images requested on the Web-based form. The staff included curators, assistant curators, and other assistants.


The staff (primarily the Registrar) selected images that represented the richness and breadth of the collection, and were driven by internal priorities rather than the needs of the universities. In the second year the MFAH provided some American art at the request of one of the universities. Content selection staff included the Registrar, Rights and Reproductions Administrator, and the Education Director. Like the HUAM, Houston did not have a technical person involved in content selection.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art provided minimal data in their post-project report. The Collection System Manager chose images from a collection of approximately 1,200 existing digital images.

National Museum of American Art

The National Museum of American Art had an existing collection of 1,000 digital images when the MESL project began, and the first year selection was made from among these images. The museum was particularly responsive to requests from the universities in the second year. The staff involved at NMAA were the Chief of Publications and New Media Initiatives (PNMI), a database administrator, photographic technician, and programmer.

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The Cost of Digital Image Distribution:
The Social and Economic Implications of
the Production, Distribution, and Usage of Image Data

By Howard Besser & Robert Yamashita