About Smarthistory—public art history

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’s free, award-winning digital content unlocks the expertise of hundreds of leading scholars, making the history of art accessible and engaging to more people, in more places, than any other publisher.


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


Smarthistory is the most visited art history resource in the world. We are the official provider of art history for khanacademy.org, and we support AP art history and A-level curriculum. Smarthistory is public art history. We support students, instructors, and lifelong learners everywhere.


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,” Washington Post (May 3, 2020)

Recent Stats

57 million views in 2020
500 academic contributors
3,000 essays and videos
200,000 YouTube subscribers
30 number of museums we have worked with


Beth HarrisDr. Beth Harris is co-founder and executive director of Smarthistory. Previously, she was dean of art and history at Khan Academy and director of digital learning at The Museum of Modern Art. Before joining MoMA, Beth was Associate Professor of art history and director of distance learning at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she taught both online and in the classroom. She has co-authored, with Dr. Steven Zucker, numerous articles on the future of education and the future of museums, and is the editor of Famine and Fashion: Needlewomen in the Nineteenth Century (2005). She received her Master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and her doctorate in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Dr. Steven Zucker is co-founder and executive director of Smarthistory. Previously, Steven was dean of art and history at Khan Academy. He was also chair of history of art and design at Pratt Institute where he strengthened enrollment and lead the renewal of curriculum across the Institute. Before that, he was dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY and chair of their art history department. He has taught at The School of Visual Arts, Hunter College, and at The Museum of Modern Art. Dr. Zucker is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has co-authored, with Dr. Beth Harris, numerous articles on the future of education and the future of museums. Dr. Zucker received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank is Dean of Content and Strategy. As a strong advocate of public art history and digital art history pedagogy, she has been a long-time collaborator with Smarthistory as a content contributor, content editor, and board member. Lauren was previously associate professor of art history at Pepperdine University. Her MA and PhD are from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has taught at Brooklyn College (CUNY), the Graduate Century (also CUNY), the University of Oregon, and UCLA. She has served in a number of service and public outreach capacities, including as a board member of the Renaissance Conference of Southern California, a member of the Student and Emerging Professional Committee at CAA, and as a member of the selection committee for the Renaissance Society of America. Her research primarily focuses on the visual culture of Spain and Latin America between 1400 and 1800, considering issues of colonialism, gender, censorship, globalization, and emotions. She has published Holy Organ or Unholy Idol?: The Sacred Heart in Art, Religion, and Culture of New Spain (Brill, 2018) and Visualizing Sensuous and Affective Pain in Early Modern Europe and the Americas (Brill, 2018; co-edited with Dr. Heather Graham), and has a forthcoming book, Emotions, Art, and Christianity in the Transatlantic World, 1450–1800 (forthcoming 2021). Beyond books, she has published essays and reviews in journals, including The Americas, Colonial Latin American Review, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, caa.reviews, and others. She is also interested in pedagogy, digital art history, and the digital humanities, with recent publications in the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (“Doing Digital Art History in a Pre-Columbian Art Survey Class: Creating an Omeka Exhibition Around the Mixtec Codex Zouche-Nuttall,” 2018) and Digital Humanities Quarterly (“Decolonizing “The Digital” in the Classroom: Reflections on the Intersection of Colonial Latin American Art History and Digital Art History Pedagogy“).

 Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow

Dr. Evan Freeman is a content contributor in the art and culture of Byzantium. He holds a Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University, where he wrote his dissertation on ritual objects in the Middle Byzantine Divine Liturgy. His primary research interests include art and materiality, ritual, and cross-cultural exchange in Byzantium and the wider medieval Mediterranean. He is also interested in Byzantium’s influence on medieval Russian art and architecture, and has published on the twentieth-century “rediscovery” of the icon and subsequent receptions of the icon by Pavel Florensky and other thinkers of the Russian Silver Age and Russian Religious Renaissance.

American history fellow

Dr. Kimberly Kutz Elliott was Senior Content Creator in Humanities at Khan Academy. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in United States cultural history, visual culture, and religion. Her dissertation, “Lincoln’s Ghosts: The Posthumous Career of an American Icon,” was the recipient of the Hay-Nicolay Prize. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech and Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Mary Washington. 

Coordinator for Special Projects

Kayla McCarthy has her hands in just about every aspect of Smarthistory, focusing on video creation and content organization. At Indiana University, where she graduated with a B.A. in American Studies, she also had her hands in many areas, from pioneering a pop-up exhibit for the University’s bicentennial, to writing about the nostalgia of Stranger Things. It was also at Indiana University where her curiosity about digital tools and their potential to democratize knowledge was sparked, which built on a longer love of how to connect real people with big ideas in that humbling, expansive process of learning and exchange. In addition to Smarthistory, Kayla has worked with the Chicago History Museum’s Chicago 00 Project, where she had a dynamic role in realizing a virtual reality experience of the 1893 World’s Fair.

Production Assistant

Julia Campbell (Pepperdine University ’21) is our current  production assistant and was a former intern at Smarthistory. Her senior thesis focuses on the Chicanx group ASCO.

Academic and technical support

Smarthistory relies on the extraordinary generosity and dedication of our contributing editors and our many academic contributors. Without their commitment, Smarthistory would not be possible. We would also like to thank Dr. Joseph Ugoretz for his technology expertise and Susan Koski Zucker for her design expertise.

Learn more

Smarthistory opens museums and cultural sites up to the world, one video at a time. We’re creating world-class resources on art and cultural objects for learners from around the globe—for free. Smarthistory is the most-visited art history website in the world. Our conversational videos and essays cover art and cultural heritage that range from the paleolithic to the present.

Art connects us to the world; it allows us to imagine, to create, to build and to inspire, and it shouldn’t be locked up in a textbook. 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. Smarthistory brings you into the conversation.

Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Galleries, London)

Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Galleries, London)

Now more than ever we need understanding, rigorous analysis and nuance, and art history teaches the critical thinking needed to better comprehend current events and their cultural and historical context.

Smarthistory is the window through which to learn about today’s biggest clash points: we interrogate faith, class, race, gender and power through a study of art and objects from ancient times until the present. We help learners navigate their world by teaching the skills of interpretation and judgement to help them make meaning of the world around them.

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

Art encourages empathy and connection across cultural divides: by understanding each other’s history and context, we can grow closer with stronger compassion and knowledge.

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

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

At Smarthistory, we believe in the power and importance of dialog. We don’t prescribe or dictate: we use unscripted conversations to show the subjective, interpretive and experiential nature of art. Human brains are wired to follow real conversation and we find that engages the processes of learning.

Examining art doesn’t have to happen with a silent, respectful gaze: artists invite inquiry and debate, and we facilitate and role-model that dynamic exchange for learners to help the art come alive. On Smarthistory, our conversations are intimate connections with our learners: we speak directly to them and include the sound of visitors or the echo of the vaulted ceiling of a church to help contextualize the artwork’s location and to relate art history to a world that students recognize.

Coatlicue, c. 1500, Mexica (Aztec), found on the SE edge of the Plaza Mayor/Zocalo in Mexico City, basalt, 257 cm high (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City)

Coatlicue, c. 1500, Mexica (Aztec), found on the SE edge of the Plaza Mayor/Zocalo in Mexico City, basalt, 257 cm high (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City)

Smarthistory is the result of a collaboration of more than 400 art historians, archaeologists, curators and academics who want to make the highest-quality art history resources freely available to a global audience.

We believe collaborating is the best way to create powerful and compelling content, and bring together content creators from a diverse array of perspectives and backgrounds. All our contributions are donations, expressing our community’s shared belief in making the best in global art history freely available to learners around the world.

Many of us involved with Smarthistory recognize that it is a form of activism or a democratizing social project because the site is available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. You can read content or watch videos in any order you like. You can rewrite traditional narratives….Smarthistory is also an outlook and a method. In fact, let’s just create a verb here: “to smarthistory”….I smarthistory because I want to shake up the canon, transform how Art History operates, engage with different publics, collaborate with people, transform my classroom (and my pedagogy for that matter), and challenge myself to think in new ways. Dr. Lauren Kilroy Ewbank, Associate Professor of Art History at Pepperdine University

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.

Piano and Rogers, Centre Pompidou, 1971-77

Piano and Rogers, Centre Pompidou, 1971-77

Many of the greatest inventions have come from art: seeing, thinking and wondering about improving the world. We strongly believe art history helps us understand past generations and their dreams and aspirations, while also informing our own.

Smarthistory can bring art and history to life, taking you right up to a monument, painting or object in its current environment, helping you journey to places and times beyond your own. The world is complex, but learning about it doesn’t have to be.


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