Image databases and presentation software

17 09 2010

Catherine Worrall, Image Collections Co-ordinator at the University College Falmouth, has given her kind permission to publish the following review. She discusses how the University College Falmouth use three databases to provide images and presentation software to their staff and students, and why it is important for them to use all three in combination.

1. ARTstor

Although I don’t demo the ARTstor offline viewer, I have looked at it and think it’s useful, although it doesn’t have all of the functions that the online viewer does, including adding text/notes to the images, I think you have to do this in the online one, which then transfers across. But it is good though in that you can add your own images and combine them with ARTstor’s images.

Teaching students how to use these various image databases has been an interesting experience as they vary greatly in their functionality. ARTstor I feel wins hands down in most categories, it’s very intuitive, it’s functions are excellent, in particular the zoom feature is the best that I have seen. It now features a PowerPoint download option, which is really easy to use, and simply downloads an image group directly into PowerPoint in a few clicks. Although I try to encourage staff and students to use ARTstor’s slideviewer, as it is really good, users tend to get stuck in their ways and often resort to PowerPoint (which I think is a shame, as it was never really meant for images). The only downfall with ARTstor is the subject coverage, it has an American and art history bias, and is lacking in design history, however students seem very happy with it for research, and staff here are also impressed with it mostly because of its sophisticated functionality.

2. Bridgeman Education

Bridgeman has a more European and British bias, compared to ARTstor and provides access to images which are more obscure or from private collections. Bridgeman has recently upgraded its functionality, with big improvements to their slideviewer and zoom features. Demonstrating Bridgeman has been fine and both students and staff navigate the interface with no problems, and there has been positive feedback regarding its subject scope.

3. Madison Digital Image Database

MDID2, which is the version we’re using currently, although we will migrate to MDID3 when it is available in the autumn, has been great. It’s given me a place to store images and metadata, and is easy to upload both images and metadata. We will be launching it in the autumn, so I have limited experience of demonstrating it to others’, apart from a few staff members involved in our pilot. Compared to ARTstor, its functionality is not as sophisticated, but it serves a purpose, it’s somewhere users can store their own images and combine them with others both in MDID and elsewhere to create slideshows/groups of images. For us, it is a place to keep unique local collections such as Cornwall Artists and Designers and Degree Show work, and I’m sure it’ll be useful when it is launched. The slideviewer is pretty easy to use and staff liked the lightbox viewer in particular, as it reminds them of viewing slides.

Overall, for now, it is important for us to have all 3 image databases, as they work as a team, and each has its pros and cons!


ARTstor’s Public Offline Image Viewer

13 05 2010

This is one piece of presentation software that I have been aware of for a number of years.


  • Greater variety of image templates than PowerPoint’s slide layouts.
  • Zoomable image templates, only requires user to drag and drop image into the template; supports high quality images.
  • Easy shortcuts to use e.g. pressing ‘0’ fits the image to the frame, and pressing ‘9’ shows it at actual size.
  • Image palette area, similar to a physical slide light box, you can drag and drop images and view them in a large group.
  • Pared down functionality so that it is focused on images.


  • When presenting at a new venue the ARTstor software would need to be installed prior to giving your presentation (this doesn’t take long but is a technical consideration).
  • The version I downloaded today was 2.6a (BETA), if you subscribe to ARTstor the version is 3.0. Unfortunately the free version has compatability issues e.g. I couldn’t use it in Windows 7 even in compatability mode, although it would let me run a previous presentation.
  • This can’t incorporate moving images.
  • Templates are fixed, so you can’t add text boxes in addition to the template options (or this may be a compatability issue I am having).
  • It is good that it is streamlined, but then what happens if you want additional functionality such as animations or more complex image editing tools