Open Access in Art History

In art history, works are increasingly being published in digital formats; open access plays an important role in this regard. For example, together with repre­sentatives of the professional associations in the field of art history, Heidelberg University Library and the Specialised Information Service Art, Design, Photo­graphy,, have developed strategies for digital publishing in the arts. In Die Zukunft des kunsthistorischen Publizierens [The Future of Art His­torical Publishing] (2021), an e-book edited by Maria Effinger and Hubertus Koh­le, the possibilities of digital publishing are set out in numerous contributions from an art historical perspective. A further fundamental work entitled Digitales Publizieren in den Geisteswissenschaften: Begriffe, Standards, Empfehlungen [Digital Publishing in the Humanities: Concepts, Standards, Recommendations] (2021) has been published by the Digital Publishing Working Group of the association Digital Humanities in the German Speaking Area (DHd). The guide Bildrechte in der kunsthistorischen Praxis [Image Rights in Art Historical Practice] (2021) by Veronika Fischer and Grischka Petri provides answers to questions about image rights. 

Open Access Journals

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 60 entries under the search term History of the arts and 512 entries under Fine arts. Besides newly established open access journals, retrodigitised journal volumes are also available in open access. New issues of these journals either appear simultaneously in print and in digital format, or the digital version is made available in open access after an embargo period (delayed open access).

Important open access journals include:

In collaboration with the Specialised Information Service Art, Photography, and Design,, Heidelberg University Library provides a technical infrastructure for publishing open access journals. The offering is addressed to art historians worldwide. The publication platform uses the open source software Open Journal Systems (OJS) provided by the Public Knowledge Pro­ject (PKP). As of December 2021, 41 open access journals were being published via

Open Access Books

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 85 titles under the keyword History of art / art & design styles, and OAPEN listed 92 titles under the subject History of art / art & design styles. Many interna­tional museums and research institutions, for example the Getty Research Insti­tute’s Getty Publications Virtual Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetPublications, and the Canadian Online Art Book Project, now offer cost-free access to a selection of their books

The open access publication platform ART-Books, which is provided by Heidelberg University Library, publishes open access scholarly e-books from the fields of art history, photography, and design (gold open access) and also makes digital versions of print books from these fields avail­able to the public (green open access). The cost-free offering is addressed to art historians worldwide. The platform uses the open source software Open Monograph Press (OMP) provided by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP).

Disciplinary Repositories

ART-Dok, the publication platform of, offers scholars from all over the world an opportunity to make their digital art history publications (monographs, articles, lectures, etc.) available in open access. The self-archiving of digital versions of works published in print format elsewhere is also possible and desired. As of December 2021, ART-Dok contained almost 7,500 open access publications.

An overview of relevant repositories is provided by the Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR), and by re3data under the keywords Art History and Data Access Open (as of December 2021).

Video about Self-Archiving Rights

Practical Tip

Finding Open Access Literature (in German)

Other Offerings

Subject Portals and Platforms

  • The information and service portal for art history is ope­rated by the Saxon State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) and Heidel­berg University Library.
  • The Digital Art History Research Group promotes networking among scholars in the field of art history who develop, use, and theoretically reflect on digital tools and methods. The Research Group is a platform for digital art history.
  • The Association of German Art Historians (Verband Deutscher Kunsthisto­riker e.V.) represents the interests of art historians working in Germany and at German institutions abroad.
  • The online archives JSTOR and Project MUSE now make available open access content of relevance to art historians.

Databases and the Like

  • The Art Discovery Group Catalogue is an international database with hol­dings from art and museum libraries in the USA and Europe.
  • Via’s catalogue, users can search for literature of relevance to art history. Searches in the full texts of collections and in image sources and disciplinary repositories are also possible.  
  • The Getty Research Portal is a subject portal of the Getty Research Insti­tute. The portal offers worldwide open access to digitised art history literature.
  • The Datenbank-Infosystem (DBIS) provides an overview of databases in the areas of art history and architecture.

 Image Databases

Open Science in Art History

Although open access has received strong support in the field of art history in recent times, legal, technical, and organisational issues relating to the publica­tion and archiving of art history research data still put obstacles in the way of many scholars who want to publish their data open access. To remedy this, the recently established consortium NFDI4Culture aims to create an infrastructure for research data on tangible and intangible cultural assets, and, when doing so, to engage with the needs of the communities. The NFDI4 Culture Helpdesk Ser­vice advises art historians on various aspects of handling research data. Ques­tions can be asked about legal aspects, publishing and archiving data, digitisa­tion in general, open access standards, and support for the planning of funding proposals. Moreover, with its FAIR Clearing Unit, NFDI4Culture has created an advisory service that promotes the application of quality standards such as the FAIR Principles.

Besides the possibility of archiving research data in institutional research data repositories, research data relating to open access publications on arthistori­ can be published online and archived with

DARIAH-EU is a European network that not only supports and improves digital research and teaching in the arts and humanities but also promotes the transi­tion to open science in these fields.


Content editor of this page: Alexandra Büttner, Heidelberg University Library (Last updated: September 2021)


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