Today we’re bringing you the visual treat that is the Chester Beatty Library Image Gallery. Filled with images from about 2700 BC to the present century and displayed using an extremely user-friendly interface, the gallery is sure to keep you busy for a while.
The Image Gallery is just part of the Chester Beatty Library, which is comprised of the private manuscript and book collections of Alfred Chester Beatty, an Irish-American collector and mining magnate. Throughout his life, Beatty amassed a large collection of Asian, Islamic, and Western manuscripts, scrolls and books. He was committed to preserving these texts for historic value and created a library for them in Ireland in the 1950s. After his death, his library was given over to a trust to benefit the public, and is now located in Dublin, Ireland.
The gallery is split into East Asian, Islamic and Western art, and also contains a section for Rare Books, Archival Image and Exhibitions. In the collections, you’ll find Japanese painted scrolls, pages of a 14th century Qur’an, beautiful folios and images from the earliest bibles.
In addition to the gorgeous images, the Chester Beatty Library Image Gallery is notable for its functionality. The interface is simple yet attractive, and allows for easy browsing through images. For artists looking to explore styles and browse for inspiration, it’s the perfect tool. The search function allows for more advanced finding by artists, place of origin time period or material as well.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Image Gallery is that it utilizes community tagging. As users browse the site, they can add tags to any of the images. Those tags are then added to a large tag cloud, which can be used to search for images in a way that might yield slightly different results than the advanced search.
Tags are based on a variety of things: subject matter, materials, color, the feelings the image evokes, and really whatever the user wants. What’s wonderful about the tag cloud is that it creates the opportunity to see the collection arranged in new ways. When I click on the “Animals” tag, I’m taken to all the images that users have tagged with that name and see portrayals of animals that range across cultures, styles and materials. When I click on the tag “Blue”, I see images that are primarily blue in color, and look quite beautiful all together as a whole. The ability to create these self-curated mini collections through tagging gives gallery users a new way of organizing the images to suite their needs.
Have you explored the Chester Beatty Library Image Gallery? Explored the tag cloud, or done some tagging yourself? What’s your favorite thing about this visual resource?