Our mission


 

Our mission: public art history

At Smarthistory we believe art has the power to transform lives and to build understanding across cultures. We believe that the brilliant histories of art belong to everyone, no matter their background. Smarthistory takes you inside museums and outside to ancient temples and engages in conversations about how to interpret and understand the images you’re seeing. 

Toward an equitable art history

At Smarthistory, we are committed to an inclusive, equitable art history. We are growing our collaborations with scholars, knowledge-bearers, elders, and others. In addition, we have specifically designed several programs to achieve a more equitable art history:

  • Honoraria for early-career scholars
  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows
  • Content area fellows and content editors in a wide variety of specializations
  • Webinars that focus on supporting a more inclusive undergraduate classroom
  • A free world art history online textbook, Reframing Art History
  • Support for internal and external special projects that foster diversity in the field of art history (for example, Civil War in Art and Seeing America)
  • An undergraduate intern program to support a more diverse generation of scholars

In 2022 to date

  • Smarthistory plans to publish more than 150 essays on under-represented areas of art history (as a point of comparison, Smarthistory published 186 essays in 2021)
  • Smarthistory currently has content area fellows in the art of the Caribbean, Africa, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Islamic world, China, and South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA)
  • 5 out of 6  webinars focused on art from under-represented cultures
  • a majority of videos produced focus on art from under-represented cultures

How we do it

Smarthistory is a radical collaborative of more than five hundred art historians, curators, archaeologists, and artists committed to rewriting the colonial legacies of art history and unlocking the expertise of hundreds of leading scholars, making the history of art accessible to more people, in more places, than any other publisher. We work hard to make our essays and videos engaging while retaining depth, nuance and analytic rigor.

Art and life, pain and joy, past and present, profound and prosaic. All, in an instant, folded into one. What could have been boring and didactic instead hits a kind of pedagogical sweet spot — that priceless moment when a lesson becomes an event. Even if its author had wanted it to, an art history textbook could never produce such a moment.

— Sebastian Smee, “How two professors transformed the teaching of art history,” The Washington Post (May 3, 2020)

Does it work?

Smarthistory, a tiny not-for-profit, with support from our academic contributors, as well as major foundations and donors, has become the most visited art history resource in the world. We are the official provider of art history for khanacademy.org and we support AP and A-level art history and students, instructors, and lifelong learners everywhere. Smarthistory supports 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 an internet connection. Smarthistory is public art history.

As an invaluable electronic resource, Smarthistory‘s library of thousands of free art history videos and essays is helping a broad array of learners during the COVID-19 crisis.
—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, May 3, 2020

By the numbers

50 million views in 2021
38 editors
500 academic contributors
3,000 essays and videos
250,000 YouTube subscribers
35 museums have partnered with Smarthistory
500 universities, libraries, and research institutions recommend Smarthistory

For the past five years I have relied heavily on your wonderful Smarthistory website when I teach Art Appreciation on our public campus. The open source text has enabled me to do away with a hard copy text and save my students hundreds of dollars. In addition I believe your articles and videos are superior to any text on the market today. Liz Frey, Associate Professor, Centralia College

Tomb of the founder of the Ming dynasty, Nanjing, China

Tomb of the founder of the Ming dynasty, Nanjing, China, 1381–1405 

 

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