Curator’s Choice

We’ve teamed up with our sister project The Public Domain Review to bring you open collections selected by curators from cultural heritage institutions across the globe. Each month we’ll publish a guest article written by a curator on a set of open digital works. Of course, the works you find in the series will have an open license applied to them so you are free to re-use them in any context you choose.

It’s always been the goal of OpenGLAM to highlight the work of cultural heritage institutions doing their bit to build a cultural commons and it’s fantastic to be working with a network of curator’s keen to embrace the new opportunities for access that the internet affords. If you are a curator or work in a cultural heritage institution and would like some of your digitised collections to be highlighted in this series get in touch via



      • #2 Carel and Abraham Allard in the Court of Momus – Daniel Horst, research associate from the Rijksmuseum, explores the controversial collection of satirical etchings published by Abraham Allard in Amsterdam ca. 1708 under the title ‘t Lusthof van Momus.


      • #3 Visual nation making and forgetting – Henrik Holm, curator at the National Gallery of Denmark, looks at the making of the Danish painting canon and its relation to the construction of a national identity.


      • #4 The World According to Pitt – Jo Pugh, researcher at the UK National Archives, explores the newly digitised letters of former British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and his sister Hester, and how their contents shed an intimate light on one of the most politically influential families in British history.


      • #5 The Manuscripts of Emily Dickinson – Mike Kelly, curator at the Archives and Special Collections of Amherst College, explores highlights from their Emily Dickinson collection, a huge variety of manuscript forms – from concert programmes to chocolate wrappers – which give us a fascinating insight into how the poet worked.



      • #7 The History of the Ordinary – Laura Bang, curatorial assistant at Villanova University’s Special Collections and Digital Library, and Ruth Martin, Digital Library intern, explore an early 20th-century scrapbook put together by Company 62 of the New York City Fire Department.


      • #8 Ambassadors, Milkmaids, and Hot air balloons – Patrick Borer, from the Zentralbibliothek Solothurn, picks out some highlights from their collection of 18th-century prints and looks at what they tell us about life in a Swiss city state.


      • #9 The Writings of J.F. Martinet (1729-1795) – Marieke van Delft, curator of early printed editions at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), discusses some works by the prolific writer Johannes Florentius Martinet (1729-1795), digitized in the Early Dutch Books Online (EDBO) Project.


      • #10 Cuttings from a Medieval Italian Choirbook – James Freeman, intern in Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Section at The British Library, looks at cuttings from a huge 14th-century Italian choirbook and how digital technology is now helping scholars build a picture of the once intact original through virtually reuniting the “diaspora” of fragments.


      • #11 The Wellcome Library’s Top 10 Open Images – Catherine Draycott, head of Wellcome Images, gives a run down of the Top 10 most downloaded images from the collection of more than 100,000 that the Wellcome Library made available under an open license earlier this year.


      • #12 Markham’s Masterpiece – Michael J. North, Head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts in NLM’s History of Medicine Division, takes a look at one of the most important books in the history veterinary medicine – a seminal 17th-century work on the care of horses.


      • #13 Cabinet Card Photographs from the Harvard Theatre Collection – John Overholt, Curator at Houghton Library, shines a spotlight on a few examples from the eclectic lot of cabinet card photographs found in the Harvard Theatre Collection, a series of images which are currently making their way onto Wikimedia Commons courtesy of the Wikpiedian in Residence scheme.


      • #14 The Other Lives of Adam and Eve – Sarah Toulouse, Head of the Rare Books and Cultural Heritage Department at Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, explores the mystery behind a couple of strange and unexpected images found in a 15th-century book of hours.


      • #15 William Blake and Paul Mellon: The Life of the Mind – Matthew Hargraves, Chief Curator of Art Collections at the Yale Center for British Art, looks at Paul Mellon as a collector of William Blake and the impact of his lifelong fascination with psychology and psychiatry on his collecting.


      • #16 Armenians and Armenian Photographers in the Ottoman Empire – Julia Grimes, research assistant at the Getty Research Institute, introduces a fascinating selection of images from the Pierre de Gigord Collection detailing Armenian life in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, many from the studio of Armenian photographers Pascal Sebah and the Abdullah Frères.


      • #17 Boys will be Boys: Playing Around in a 17th-Century Friendship Book – Dr Lynley Anne Herbert, Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Walters Art Museum, investigates a mysterious image and accompanying rebus found within the pages of a liber amicorum or “friendship book”, an album for recording friendships and social connections that amounted to a kind of seventeenth-century version of Facebook.


      • #18 Autochromes from the Te Papa Collection – Lissa Mitchell, Curator of Historical Documentary Photography at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, explores the work of three photographers creating autochromes in early 20th-century New Zealand.


      • #19 A Mongolian Manual of Astrology and Divination – Michael J. North, Head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts in National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division, takes a look at one the highlights of the Library’s Turning the Pages project, a Mongolian manuscript concerned with interpreting the heavens.


      • #20 Strange Contests in the Netherlands – Harry van Biessum, from Open Images, gives a little tour through some of the collection’s stranger films, in particular those Dutch newsreels from the 1930s which centred on reporting a wide-variety of bizarre competitions.


      • #21 Gallipoli: Through the Soldier’s Lens – To mark the 100 years since Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) fought the Gallipoli campaign of WW1, Alison Wishart, Senior Curator of Photographs at Australian War Memorial, explores the remarkable photographic record left by the soldiers. Made possible by the birth of Kodak’s portable camera, the photographs give a rare and intimate portrait of the soldier’s day-to-day life away from the heat of battle.


      • #22 The Forth Bridge: Building an Icon – Alison Metcalfe, curator in the Manuscript and Archive Collections department of the National Library of Scotland, presents the Library’s collection of photographs recording the construction of the Forth Bridge, the first major structure in Britain to be made of steel and a milestone in civil engineering.


      • #23 Daniel Nyblin’s Glass Negatives of Artworks – Hanna-Leena Paloposki, chief curator and archive- and library manager at the Finnish National Gallery, presents a selection from the gallery’s collection of Daniel Nyblin glass negatives, a collection comprised of the photographer’s lesser known images of artworks.


      • #24 Tempest Anderson: Pioneer of Volcano Photography – Pat Hadley, Sarah King and Stuart Ogilvy from The Yorkshire Museum (York Museums Trust), present a fascinating selection of photographs from the collection of Tempest Anderson, the pioneering Victorian volcanologist.


      • #25 Jacob Sarnoff and the Strange World of Anatomical Filmmaking – Miriam Posner, Digital Humanities program coordinator at UCLA and guest curator at the National Library of Medicine, on what led a 1920s Brooklyn surgeon to remove the veins from a day-old infant, mount them on a board, and film them being pumped with air.



      • #27 The Legend of the Divine Farmer – Gillian Daniel, Graduate Trainee at the Wellcome Trust, explores the story of Shen Nong, born of a princess and heavenly dragon, and teacher to the ancient Chinese of agriculture and herbal medicine.



      • #29 Sharing Photographs – Dr. Antje Schmidt is Head of Digital Cataloguing and MKG Collection Online. She holds a doctorate in Art History and, while her doctoral thesis examined the changing architecture and presentation modes of museums around 1900, in her current position she explores the challenges of museum practice in the digital age. Dr. Esther Ruelfs has been Head of the Photography and New Media Department since 2012. Her interest lies in the connection between historical currents and recent developments in photography. She wrote her thesis on the German photographer Herbert List. – See more at: