Start here: an introduction to Smarthistory

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Guidelines for essay contributions

Essay style checklist

Examples of Smarthistory essays

What is Smarthistory?

Smarthistory is the world’s leading online resource for teaching and learning about art history. Smarthistory has received funding through the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Macaulay Family Foundation, and private donors.

As the Humanities, and particularly Art History, face diminishing resources within secondary and higher education, Smarthistory seeks to demonstrate the value of studying global cultural heritage, and the importance of the discipline of art history.

Who is Smarthistory?

Smarthistory is a collaboration of hundreds of academic contributors (art historians, curators, archaeologists, and conservators) coordinated by our executive and contributing editors. All contributions are donations, expressing our community’s shared belief in making high-quality global art history freely available to learners around the world.

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Our principles

Our work is based on six basic principles, each of which intersects with and supports the others.

Smarthistory is:


Smarthistory resources are created by scholars with deep expertise and represents the latest research that has been widely accepted in its field. We strive for factual accuracy, sound scholarship, and integrity. All of our content is rigorously fact-checked.


Our videos and essays are presented in an informal, conversational style that draws learners in and explains complex issues using clear, accessible language.


We support the ethical and open sharing of cultural knowledge. All of our resources are published under a Creative Commons non-commercial license, and are available ad-free to anyone with access to the web.


Our resources are “bite-sized” (800-1200 word essays, and 4-10 minute videos) and can each stand alone. This makes them customizable and easy to use in any educational context.


We record on location standing in front of, or in, the object or building we are discussing. The immediacy of this approach—including the sounds of visitors, or the echo of the vaulted ceiling of a church, as well as images that include museum visitors, tourists, and worshippers—contextualize the artwork, and embed art history in a world that students recognize.


In the age of YouTube, expensively-produced content is often viewed as inauthentic. Our content is produced by a small staff using a minimum of affordable equipment and consumer software.

Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Naraelle Hohensee, "Start here: an introduction to Smarthistory," in Smarthistory, July 21, 2017, accessed May 23, 2018,