Lovers of art history will soon be able to see the intricate details of the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel ceiling and countless other masterpieces right at their fingertips.
Wolff, an art history iPad application, uses a streamlined interface to bring crowd-sourced, high-resolution artwork to users in classroom and academic settings. Created by Greg Bryda GRD ’16, the app will officially launch on Thursday at the College Art Association’s Annual Conference in New York City. Yale art history professors and graduate students who have been involved with the design and testing of the application gave glowing reviews to Wolff, and believe that the application will change the way art history is taught and learned.
“We want to place high-resolution artwork images in the hands of people in a way that is functional and beautiful,” Bryda said, noting that the application will help the art history discipline keep up with the changing technological landscape.
Users will be able to access and upload high-resolution digitized artworks onto the Wolff Catalog, a crowd-sourced library on the application, and create a personal library for private artwork. The crowd-sourcing function will create an enormous selection of images in the application’s database as scholars within each subfield of art history will be able to upload the most important and high-quality artwork photos from their collections, according to Lindsay Riordan GRD ’16, who has been beta-testing Wolff.
Wolff, which is currently featured on the Yale Kickstarter page, successfully raised $20,000 last May, and since then, Bryda has been busy designing and perfecting the application. He designed Wolff specifically for art historians, and the application contains several components that will aid in their teaching and research.
Michelle Oing GRD ’18, who has also been trying out the application, said she will use Wolff as a private database for her own research.
“In terms of my own studies, I can think of Wolff as a permanent repository for my own images,” she said. “Being able to have all those in one place will also, I think, help stimulate new ideas: maybe seeing two images juxtaposed in a light box will kick off a whole new idea.”
The guarantee of high-resolution quality will also be crucial for art history research, Oing said, as details can make or break an argument.
Aside from its database of digitized artwork, Wolff’s major selling point will be its streamlined and interactive platform for art history teaching. Bryda said he created the application because the current system of creating slide shows is not suitable for art history classes. Professors currently use PowerPoint presentations, which makes it difficult to access and analyze artwork photos.
Professors using the application will be able to create and share slideshows with their students by simply dragging images from the database onto the presentation slide and sharing it with students through the application. During classes, Wolff will allow professors and students to zoom into details — without sacrificing the quality of resolution — and compare artworks side-by-side.
“Wolff promises to let educators and students exploit the full possibilities of the incredibly rich variety of high-res digital images now available online,” art history professor Jacqueline Jung said. “[It] could deepen, expand and more generally transform people’s understanding of art.”
Jung, who is Bryda’s dissertation advisor, cites the application’s intuitive design and its capacity to zoom and pan within a single image as essential features that will add to the classroom experience.
Furthermore, Wolff will allow students to follow lectures by looking at images on their own devices. Professors may also allow students to lead presentations by giving them control of lecture slides through the application.
“With Wolff, [students] could sync into the lecture as I’m giving it and explore the images themselves as I’m discussing them,” Jung said. “There’s nothing so exciting as the moment when a student recognizes a mysterious detail they’d never seen before — and that the teacher may not have been prone to point out — and helps everyone to see the image afresh.”
In Jung’s current classes, it can sometimes be difficult for students to see the details that she discusses, she said.
Following the launch, Wolff will be offered to the public in three different packages: basic, individual and institutional. While the basic package is free, the individual version — which provides access to higher-resolution images and unlimited cloud storage, among other features — will cost $15 per year. The third package will be available to users whose institutions have signed up to be partners with Wolff. Despite interest from many other institutions, Bryda said he hopes that Yale will become the application’s first partner, and is currently in talks to make that happen.
“Our goal is for all art history courses to migrate to Wolff,” he said.