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Mark Harden's Artchive: CD-ROM Reviews

ART20, The Thames and Hudson Multimedia Dictionary of Modern Art

The Thames and Hudson Multimedia Dictionary of Modern Art

Available online
through Amazon.

Click on the thumbnails to view the screen captures.

NOTE: If you have a newer graphics card, see the technical support from Thames & Hudson regarding Quicktime compatibility...thanks to an Artchive Patron.

Note #2: A Thames and Hudson representative now advises: "the CD has been updated to suppport Windows XP and Mac OSX. Maybe just as important for your constituency, the disc can now be networked in schools. Details can be seen at the Thames and Hudson web site."

ART20 is a serious resource for students as well as lovers of art. With 3,500 images and 2,500 entries, it is priced accordingly at $125.00. The cost is high for casual art enthusiasts, but librarians, schools and scholars will more than get their money's worth.

ART20 does an admirable job of including powerful search and navigation tools without cluttering up the interface. Menus at the top of the screen, an alphabetical quick search list at the left of the screen, and multimedia controls at the bottom of the screen are all hidden until the cursor nears that edge of the interface, similar to using "Auto Hide" features on Windows toolbars.

The different tools available to access the data can be daunting when they are first encountered, Click on thumbnail to view screen capturebut Thames & Hudson have provided an excellent interactive User's Guide to illustrate the various displays. The Guide can be viewed either in "simplified mode", which presents a typical dictionary entry and provides popup labels to explain the content, or in "overview mode", which has a scrollable list of all the features in an entry.

When analytical attention wanes, ART20 offers a powerful slide show capability, so you can just sit back and watch the art for awhile. The slide show can be sequenced chronologically or randomly, and displays each work in the dictionary. Clicking on a picture will take you back to the dictionary entry, where you can then continue your research.

Click on thumbnail to view screen captureOne avenue of entry into the data is via the "alphabet page". The complete listing of artists for a particular letter appears on the left, with random illustrations from some of those artists displayed on the right of the page.

Click on thumbnail to view screen captureThe names lead to the dictionary entries, which can be viewed in "text only", "text and illustration", or "illustrations only" modes. Clicking on the illustrations within the entry will bring up a full-screen size illustration. Some of these can be zoomed, but not all. Click on thumbnail to view screen captureThis example (from Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon") shows the level of detail (and high quality color and resolution) shown in zoom mode. Occasionally, the entry will include video or audio as well as images. This is a dictionary, not an encyclopedia, and the depth of coverage is limited for each artist. While Picasso, for example, rates eighteen screen "pages", most entries are limited to three or four screens.

What really makes ART20 a valuable reference CD-ROM is its powerful research tools. In a dictionary entry, highlighted text is hyperlinked to all other entries containing that word or phrase. This is an extremely efficient way to cross-refer among different artists and schools. Click on thumbnail to view screen captureThe search feature is a work of art itself. The search interface consists of three windows. In the left window, the search terms and options are displayed. In the center window, the search results are displayed in the textual context of the dictionary entries where they were found. In the right window, a preview, both text and images, of the dictionary entry is displayed.

ART20 offers a wealth of customization tools as well. Pictures can be saved in personal albums, text from entries can be copied to a "text notebook", and entries can be marked for your personal portfolio for future reference. A "session record" tracks all of the entries you have reviewed, from which you can retrace your steps. It is apparent that the designers have incorporated features from Web browsers (bookmarks, "Back", "Go", etc.) which make the interface highly intuitive to users of the World Wide Web.

One technical glitch: I was unable to run the CD-ROM on a computer with no sound card. Since the audio is not an essential part of the content, this should be considered a bug. For most systems, this will not be a problem, but if you are a school librarian trying to get by on older equipment, it may be a consideration. In terms of content, be aware that this is "The Thames and Hudson Multimedia Dictionary of MODERN Art" will not find Rembrandt, or even Van Gogh.

This CD-ROM is highly recommended for reference purposes.


"You may need to edit your Quick Time for Windows. To edit the file go to Start and then to Run. In Run, type "QTW.INI" and press OK. You will open up QTW-Notepad.


"Delete the words HARDWARE or DEVICE and replace with RAW


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