'Dictionary' a Staple of Dissertation Scholarship

30 August 2018

According to ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis Full Text (PQDT), fifty-four dissertations have cited the Dictionary of Art Historians in the last fourteen years, (2004-2018). The Dictionary has had a long history assisting scholars ever since it's first electronic appearance in the 1990s but came into higher profile with the emergance of the internet as a scholarly research tool.  The edited collection on the history of the College Art Association, 2011, The Eye, the Hand, the Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association, included liberal reference to the site.  But newer scholars, frequently outside the field of art-historical studies, have consistently cited the DoAH in their doctoral research.  Like many scholars building digital research tools, we've been (pleasantly) surprised at the uses for a tool originally designed to assist the narrow area of art historiography.

Research in how the database is used helps us develop a tool better designed to assist researchers studying historiography, biography, genealogy, intellectual history and cultural methodology.  

We'd love to hear from users of the Dictionary about other ways the tool is being used.  Contact the editor, Lee Sorensen, at or


Lee Sorensen

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Biographical Dictionary of Historic Art Historians Launches Rebirth

March 21, 2018 | Duke University, Durham, NC

A thirty-year-old resource emerged today as a modern reference tool for art history.  The Dictionary of Art Historians,, announced a new interface, data structure, and user options, the product of a year-long redesign.  The original tool, a website since 1996, was developed privately by Lee Sorensen, the art and visual studies librarian at Duke University.  Duke’s Wired! Lab for digital art history & visual culture sponsored the project beginning in 2016.  The new DAH offers searchable data on over 2400 art historians, museum directors, and art-writers of western art from all time periods.  Over 200 academic websites have linked to the project; the tool has been called one of the core tools of art historiography and cited in books and journal articles.

Begun pre-internet in 1986 as a card file, the project addressed a lack of information on the intellectual heritage that art historians created or used in writing art histories.  “Before the DAH, it was impossible to discover even simple things like an art historian’s scholarly reputation, his/her core writings or even under whom they studied,” Sorensen said.  “These things are important when reading a text or trying to understand the errors of past research.”

“The project’s redesign recognizes twenty-first-century scholars’ need to access information in the DAH using multiple digital research methods,” said Hannah Jacobs, Wired!’s digital humanities specialist responsible for the redesign, “It redefines the project content as data that can be mined at both micro and macro levels. By standardizing the data and developing new ways to access the data, we are making methods such as text mining, data analysis, and data visualization possible for our audiences.”

The new Dictionary of Art Historians site will continue to be developed over the coming year. New features to be released include

  • Additional filtering capabilities on the “Explore” page;
  • Ability to export filtered entries in open data formats;
  • Additional resources for citation management;
  • New data fields;
  • New and updated entries.

The Dictionary of Art Historians continues to accept contributions. Please submit feedback about the project, new entries, or edits to existing entries to

Wednesday, March 21, 2018