Fine Art, Fine ADAM

Today we're going to take a tour of the world's largest museum of fine art, aka the world wide web. Our tour guide is ADAM, the Art, Design, Architecture & Media Information Gateway, from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in the U.K.

ADAM is a searchable catalog of more than 2,500 top-notch fine art resources that have been carefully selected and cataloged by professional librarians. It's also an outstanding example of a specialized search site that's both well designed and easy to use, yet offers a wide array of power tools for advanced searchers.

Though ADAM's collection is relatively small, it's first-rate. It's put together by librarians who locate resources according to a Collections Policy and evaluate their quality against a set of Selection Guidelines. Directory entries are put together using the traditional tools and skills of librarianship (such as cataloging rules for keyword indexing, classification and controlled terminology) to create a detailed description of a resource.

The result of all this effort is a directory of art and design resources that delivers highly relevant results with virtually every search.

As if that weren't enough, ADAM offers what they call an option search, which lets you search specific fields, such as title or keyword, an advanced search with full Boolean capability, and a sophisticated proximity search that allows you to specify how close your search terms must be to each other.

ADAM goes beyond the simple entries found in most directories of web resources. If you're interested, you can see the full catalog record for each resource. This includes information such as period, places, and other general information associated with a web site. For example, a record describing a site focusing on the painter Rene Magritte will also note that Magritte was a 20th century artist living in Belgium, as well as some keywords associated with his artwork, such as surealism, dadaism, and so on.

This additional information can be very helpful if you don't find exactly what you're looking for in ADAM. In essence, the information in each record provides you with a source of additional content-rich, targeted keywords that you can plug into other search engines to help limit your search.

ADAM also makes extensive use of meta data, specifically using Dublin Core compliant tags. Have a look at the source code of individual result pages to see Dublin Core meta data in action.

The only caveat with using ADAM is that the group responsible for adding new information to the service appears to have lost its funding. The last record was added to ADAM in June 2000. Nonetheless, the system appears to be well maintained. Though you won't find recently created resources here, the caliber of the resources you will find, together with its excellent searching capabilities, make ADAM an excellent choice when you're searching for fine art resources on the web.

ADAM, the Art, Design, Architecture & Media Information Gateway

Artcyclopedia is another excellent fine arts search engine. You can search for artists by name, artworks by title, art museums by name/place, or browse artcyclopedia's database of 7,500+ great artists by movement (e.g. pop art, impressionism), medium (e.g. sculptors, illustrators), subject (e.g. landscape painters) or artist nationality.


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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.