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The Art Institute of Chicago has been publishing award-winning scholarly and popular print catalogues for decades… but is this model sustainable? Digital publication appears to hold great promise for both user experience and global reach. To achieve these bright outcomes, however, institutions need to approach the challenges and opportunities of digital publication with creativity, willingness to reorganize around new ideas and the careful and adequate resourcing of this vitally important publishing agenda.
In this paper, we will share the Art Institute of Chicago’s experiences gained from forging new integrated print and digital publishing workflows. The discussion will focus on case studies from our ongoing efforts on the Monet and Renoir Systematic Catalogue supported by the Getty’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), the Martin European Decorative Arts Gallery Interactives, the French Impressionism iPhone, iPad and Android applications, and other publications. These projects have all required a deeper collaboration between the technology, publications, education, and marketing/ communications departments. We will discuss our approaches to challenges brought on by these digital publishing opportunities, such as: How do we address the impact these workflows have on both job responsibilities and available human resources? Does increasing the digital publishing portfolio imply decreasing the number of print catalogues planned? How can we incentivize scholars to write for digital publication? Will certain features, such as footnotes and citation tools, allow the field of art history to better recognize the legitimacy of these digital works? What content and which publication channels are appropriate for revenue generating goals? Is new hardware like the iPad creating a new generation of expectations for digital publication? How sustainable are these digital publications as software evolves—are we considering the ongoing maintenance costs?