by Laura Damon-Moore

The Public Art Archive™, a new project of the Western States Arts Federation, or WESTAF (, is a sophisticated searchable database of public art in the United States. The Archive makes public art and its processes more accessible to the public, displaying images of each piece alongside an extensive description, including audio and video supplementary files when available.

The Public Art Archive™ website offers several ways that the general public can make use of the Archive:

  • Public art administrators can use the Archive to manage their collections, promote their collections to the public, track national developments in the public art field, and move their work from multiple files and formats into a single integrated collections management and communication system. Administrators can easily search for and find components of the works in their collection in one online location.
  • Artists and artist agents currently active in the field of public art or who wish to break into the field will use the Archive to see which agencies are commissioning work and what kinds of work are being commissioned. Artists who have received a public art commission will be invited to add their works to the Archive. This is also a great opportunity for artists to increase exposure to their work.
  • The general public and tourists can use the Archive to locate public art and create custom walking or driving tours by using the system’s mapping function. Cultural tourists can also enjoy videos, images, and audio about each work, allowing for a richer, more dynamic public art experience. This functionality can also augment education initiatives.
  • Researchers will use the site to access its data to inform their work. No other resource comes close to what the Public Art Archive™ can offer researchers.
  • The Archive’s database structure was developed in line with exacting standards used by major museums and cultural institutions. The Archive uses VRA Core 4.0, a powerful data standard created for the cultural heritage community by the Visual Resources Association’s Data Standards Committee. The structure is used by the Digital Library Projects at Harvard University, ARTstor and the Getty. Using a standardized structure to collect information about public art increases the value of the information for use in the academic community.
  • The vocabulary utilized in the Archive is compliant with the Getty’s Art and Architecture Thesaurus, also used by well-known institutions such as the University of Washington Libraries, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others. The vastness of the list of terms allows for standardized descriptions across the Archive, coupled with a flexibility that can accommodate new and emerging terms and descriptive language. Additionally, the Archive has been customized to include fields and data relationships that are specific to the public art domain. The Archive was built to utilize the best of museum collections’ standards while offering functionality specific to public art collections management.
Public Art Archive Search Results

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Public Art Archive Record

Public Art Archive™ Record

Click the link for more information and to visit the Public Art Archive.

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