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Getty Information Institute Departments of Scholarly Coordination, Issues and Policy, Network Initiatives, and Special Projects records, 1978-1999 (bulk 1983-1998)

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Getty Information Institute, Departments of Scholarly Coordination, Issues and Policy, Network Initiatives, and Special Project records

Administrative History

The Getty Art History Information Program (AHIP), predecessor of the Getty Information Institute (GII), was envisioned as early as 1981 with the following goal: to create "a set of linked data banks, some created by the Getty, the rest of diverse international origin, containing the varied types of information used by art historians: bibliographical indexes, biographical indexes, catalogues of works, images of works, and a host of other related data and texts to facilitate the scholar's work, all accessible through simple, unified, and inexpensive means by individual scholars around the world working at personal computers without intermediaries" (AHIP memo, February 1986). In 1984 Nancy Englander (Director of Program Planning and Analysis) presented key elements of the emerging Art History Information Program to the Getty Board of Trustees, including a number of databases. In December 1994, the Getty Art History Information Program was officially founded with nine special projects: Museum Prototype Project, International Repertory of the Literature of Art (RILA), Art and Architecture Thesaurus, Provenance Index, Architectural Drawings Advisory Group, Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance, Conway Library Project, and Witt Library Project.

During the 1980s, as personal computers became tools for scholarly research, AHIP pioneered research on the informational needs of art historians and was the driving force behind several collaborative projects concerning art-related texts and images that provided unprecedented automation of, digitization of, and access to these types of materials. Hired in 1983, Marilyn Schmitt quickly took responsibility for many of these activities, assuming control over projects initiated by Nancy Englander or developing projects in her own right. Departments or "programs" were formed within AHIP as it became an official subunit of the Trust. Although AHIP's Scholarly Coordination of Art Historical Projects Program (commonly known as Scholarly Coordination) did not come into existence until 1986, Marilyn Schmitt's responsibilities from 1983 to 1993 constitute a range of similar activity, which included planning and managing projects involving art-historical computing in collaboration with other institutions; consulting for each project within the program having art-historical content; and being a liaison to the scholarly community, communicating program goals and activities externally, and collecting information on non-Getty projects relating to art-historical automation.

With the emergence of the Scholarly Coordination Program in 1986 came an expansion of Marilyn Schmitt's responsibilities and staff, notably adding Susan Siegfried in 1987 and Deborah Wilde in 1988. This expansion enabled the development of the department's core projects: Dialog; Museum Prototype Data Merge, which resulted in the production of the artist name-matching tool, Synoname; and Object, Image, and Inquiry (OII).

By the early 1990s, as the Internet and the World Wide Web became accessible to an increasing number of people, AHIP began to consider the issues and policies emerging around information networks. The Scholarly Coordination department's activities with art-historical computing and collaboration meant that it was uniquely situated to address some of these issues. In 1990 the department helped develop the Committee on Electronic Information, a coalition encouraging the awareness of some of the broad issues facing scholars in their use of electronic information. In 1992 the department co-sponsored and participated in the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Conference on Technology, Scholarship and the Humanities, an engagement that eventually led to the development of the National Initiative, a seminal project for AHIP.

This interest in information networks became a new primary focus of AHIP when Eleanor Fink replaced Michael Ester as the head of the program in 1993 and subsequently replaced Scholarly Coordination with the Issues and Policy Program in 1994. The goal of this new department was to create partnerships and collaborative activities with organizations in the United States and internationally regarding the application of new technologies to art history and related areas, including the promotion of standards. Those involved in the new department include Rebecca Bubenas, Suzanne Deal Booth, Cynthia Scott, Susan Siegfried, Robin Thornes, Stephen Toney, and Diane Zorich.

In anticipation of the opening of the new Getty Center in 1997, the Getty instituted a new identity program in 1996. The Getty Art History Information Program (AHIP) was renamed the Getty Information Institute (GII) and the Issues and Policy department was divided into two departments: the Network Initiatives Program, headed by Kathleen McDonnell, and the Special Projects Program, headed by Marilyn Schmitt. Network Initiatives seems primarily to have continued the work of the Issues and Policy department. Special Projects undertook the mission to carry the vision, activities, and accomplishments of the GII to broader audiences, i.e., to make the value and significance of the GII's work understood and well-known beyond the strictly cultural sphere. While Marilyn Schmitt developed projects towards this goal, she also continued with projects developed during her time with Issues and Policy, a path arguably outside her new mission, but befitting of the broad scope of the "Special Projects" appellation.

In 1998 the J. Paul Getty Trust made the decision to dissolve the GII the following year. Kathleen McDonnell left Network Initiatives in January 1998 and Jane Sledge became project manager until 1999. Marilyn Schmitt also appears to have left Special Projects in 1998. Cynthia Scott continued on in the department until 1999.

Some of the functions and activities of the GII, particularly the vocabulary and database projects, were absorbed by the Getty Research Institute (GRI) and are in continued practice today. As of 2010 the Trust supports and oversees four programs: the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Getty Foundation; the Getty Conservation Institute; and the Getty Research Institute. The Trust is a not-for-profit institution, educational in purpose and character that focuses on the visual arts in all of their dimensions.

Chronology of notable departmental and managerial changes:

1983: Marilyn Schmitt is hired as a program officer with the Getty Art History Information Program (AHIP).
1984: Marilyn Schmitt becomes a program manager with AHIP.
1986: The Scholarly Coordination of Art Historical Projects Program is created (referred to as Scholarly Coordination). Marilyn Schmitt becomes manager for the department, although her responsibilities remain largely the same.
1987: Susan Siegfried is hired to work in Scholarly Coordination.
1988: Deborah Wilde is hired as a Research Associate to work in Scholarly Coordination,
1994: The Issues and Policy Program replaces Scholarly Coordination. Marilyn Schmitt becomes Manager of the department. While the outreach function of Scholarly Coordination is transferred to Issues and Policy, the department's name change signals a new direction for Schmitt and her staff. Jennifer Trant is brought on as manager of the Imaging Initiative within the Issues and Policy department.
1996: The Getty Art History Information Program becomes the Getty Information Institute (GII). The Issues and Policy Program is dissolved, replaced by the Special Projects and Network Initiatives programs. Marilyn Schmitt becomes program manager of Special Projects and Kathleen McDonnell becomes program manager of Network Initiatives. Cynthia Scott remains with Schmitt as a projects coordinator.
1998: Jane Sledge takes over from Kathleen McDonnell as program manager of Network Initiatives. Marilyn Schmitt leaves Special Projects but Cynthia Scott continues working for the department.
1999: The Getty Information Institute closes; some functions are transferred to the Getty Research Institute.

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