Monday 17 September 2012

SquinchPix joins Pelagios

When in Rome a few years ago, we came across the Santa Costanza, a beautiful 4th century AD church with the most amazing mosaics. But, when we tried to find pictures of them on the Internet afterwards, we drew a blank. Then and there we resolved to photograph the mosaics in their entirety and put the results on line for other people to enjoy. Thus was born. is our archival site for photographs of historical cultural artefacts in Europe, including archaeological sites, buildings, artworks—basically anything that has historical interest and looks great! We aren’t affiliated with any institution or school: but, the more images we have captured, the more we have become convinced that the salient characteristics of digital photography—they’re easy (to take and upload), free and resilient—along with the potential for the Internet to bring these pictures to a mass audience, must be leveraged to assist researchers and students.

The real transformative potential of digital photography has yet to be fully realised. For example, whereas previously a single photograph of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens was all that the book publisher’s budget would allow, it's now possible to photograph every capital, every sculpture, every cut in the marble, and put it all online for no increase in cost (for no cost at all, really). We also understand that the researcher needs clarity, so we exercise significant post-processing on the photos to make enhance their quality. The result is that often even very prosaic objects, such as column bases, can reveal a new and unexpected beauty. Of course, we can always do better: but, as the technology improves, so do our pictures.

Protome of a griffin.  Bronze cauldron attachment.  Olympia, Greece.  After 650 BC.  

Yet, despite this breakthrough in technology, there are many internet sites aimed at researchers where the proprietors still think like book publishers: what large-scale inclusion requires is a corresponding increase in the sophistication of the user interface. On SquinchPix every photograph is extensively tagged (keyworded). Currently our database holds a third of a million keywords for about 21,000 photos, which enables powerful searching across and aggregation of the records. In addition, every search term can be displayed as a tag- or keyword-map that shows what other terms on the site are associated with your search term and with what frequency: a click of the button brings up the corresponding image subsets. So, from finding one picture to relating a picture to many others—that has been SquinchPix’s journey.

Terracotta vessels arranged by century on SquinchPix.

It is for this reason above all that we are delighted to join Pelagios. Now our photographs can be related to many other kinds of data­—including archaeological data about them or text documents that refer to the place where they’re found—which will help provide fascinating layers of context for our images. We hope too that our photos may prove useful to be read alongside textual descriptions and archaeological records, thereby providing another dimension to the data already part of the Pelagios cloud. Our first drop of 1500 pictures taken in and around Athens, Greece will soon be available, so watch this space!

Just a short note on usage: researchers, lecturers, teachers and students may use our pictures at no cost. We only request to be credited with some such line as ‘Courtesy of’ (every photograph has the photographer’s name on it or beneath it). Those who wish to use the pictures for commercial purposes should inquire. In addition we always like to know how our pictures are being used, so please do get in touch! Our e-mail is

You can read more about us here:

Robert H. Consoli, Susan Hynnes.

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