Founded with a mission to enhance scholarship and teaching through the use of digital images and media, Artstor is a nonprofit organization committed to digital collection solutions for universities, museums, schools, and libraries worldwide. Our ever-increasing digital library includes more than 2 million high-quality images for education and research from a wide variety of contributors around the world. We have developed a complete set of tools to catalog, manage, and distribute digital media collections. Artstor is also involved in many community initiatives to further our mission, such as the Digital Public Library of America and the Built Works Registry. Our primary goals are to assemble image collections from across many cultures and eras in support of educational and scholarly activities, and to work with the arts and educational communities to develop collective solutions to the challenges of working in a digital environment.


The Digital Library

During the late 1990s, institutions of higher education — particularly image-intensive fields like art history — were beginning to struggle with how to migrate from analog slides to digital images. Digitization would mean addressing high costs, a lack of standards, and daunting intellectual property concerns. In response to the community's needs, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation created Artstor. The first phase of the project involved partners in China, France, the UK, and the U.S. building the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive, a digital repository of high-resolution images from 40 grottoes in the Gobi desert, along with images of silk banners and manuscripts from the caves brought to western Europe by English and French explorers at the turn of the 20th century. The project was a resounding success, demonstrating the ability to preserve objects in peril, to reunite works of art previously scattered around the world for study, and to join people across geographical and cultural divides. Dozens of collections from a wide variety of cultures across all major time periods have followed, including a collection of 190,000 old master drawings originally photographed at over 100 different repositories, 20 years of contemporary New York City gallery shows, archives of Islamic textiles, the restored Ghiberti "Gates of Paradise," African masks, medieval manuscripts, images of all exhibitions shown at MoMA, and many others. Today, the Artstor Digital Library shares more than 1.9 million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences from outstanding museums, photo archives, photographers, scholars, and artists.

Shared Shelf

Shared Shelf has been developed in response to the community's need for a cataloging and management system that allows institutions to manage and share media collections across departments at their own campus, with other institutions, or on the open Web without requiring local technical infrastructure or administration. Shared Shelf evolved out of the Digital Library's pilot hosting program, in which more than two million images from 150 subscribing institutions were uploaded to the Artstor Workspace. The pilot provided the ability to bring together institutional and the Digital Library's collections through a single Workspace, which proved invaluable to scholars and teachers. Artstor collaborated with nine institutional partners: Colby College, Cornell University, Harvard University, Middlebury College, New York University, Society of Architectural Historians, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Miami, and Yale University, who, along with an initial group of early subscribers, contributed significant staff knowledge, time, and investment funds to develop the platform. The Shared Shelf Steering Group advises on the development of Shared Shelf based on the needs of their staff and end users. Our shared vision is to develop innovative solutions to media management by leveraging the collective knowledge and expertise of our community.


Artstor is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.