RKD Explore is the first port of call for information about art from the Netherlands – and its international context – from the Middle Ages until the present.
It is a user friendly and attractive interface that makes a massive amount of data accessible to both professional users and the general public.
Rich and diverse contents
RKD Explore is the new user interface to access, in an integrated way, all seven databases of the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague. As of February 2015 it contains:
- 219,291 descriptions and (low- and high-res) images of works of art in collections and on the art market around the world, including attribution, dating, physical aspects, iconography, provenance, exhibitions and bibliography (RKDimages) [example: a Rembrandt painting in the National Gallery of Art in Washington];
- 408,538 names and (extensive) biographical information on artists, collectors, dealers, art historians, artist’s societies and other people and organizations in the art world (RKDartists&) [example: Piet Mondrian];
- 63,379 descriptions and images of portraits including biographical information about the sitters (RKDportraits) [example: a Portrait historié of Salomon de Bray (1597-1664) and his family];
- 281,456 title descriptions of books, periodicals, articles and other publications (RKDlibrary) [example: title description of A corpus of Rembrandt paintings];
- 992 descriptions / inventories of archives kept by the RKD, containing, in some cases, digitized primary sources in high resolution, or, if these do not yet exist, an option for scanning on demand (RKDcollections and RKDarchives) [example: the archive of Theo and Nelly van Doesburg];
- 706.861 transcriptions and/or full-text indexed digitized primary sources, for the moment focusing mainly on collection history and nineteenth-century studio practice (RKDexcerpts) [example: an early 20th-century note on the auction of an autograph letter by Peter Paul Rubens].
Data in all seven databases is linked to one another to form a network of data. Works of art link to the persons who made them and owned them; persons link to one another as master and pupil or as members of the same society; works of art link to one another as parts of a triptych, or as original and copy, or as objects shown at the same exhibition; exhibitions link to publications, etc. A thesaurus (including standard terminology such as AAT and Iconclass) is used throughout all databases, linking information in all databases also on the level of geographical entities, content descriptions, etc.
RKD Explore supports Dutch and English. The language can be switche
d at any moment.
New information is being added to the databases on a day-to-day basis.
Multiple search options
Users are offered multiple ways to search and browse through the mass of data, including cross-database searches as well as (further) searches within a particular database:
- Free text search across all databases is available on all screens (in the top bar). This function works with instant search; showing results while you type [see search results in all databases for ‘Rembrandt’]:
- Free text search is also available within each database, supported by the thesaurus (searching for a broader term also includes narrower terms, searching for an equivalent term includes the other equivalents).
- Faceted search is offered within each database to limit results in a user friendly and intuitive way. For instance, a dynamic timeline helps to limit results to a certain century, decade or year. [see the left sidebar in for instance the database RKDimages]:
- Controlled search is offered within each database for professional users to find very specific content, supported by the thesaurus [see the link ‘advanced’ at the top of the left sidebar in the previous example].
Users have the ability to perform the last ten searches again at any time (see the button ‘Search History’ in the top bar).
Image comparison and download
Images in the databases can be selected and compared (two, up to four images). See for instance the comparison of four nineteenth-century photographs of Amsterdam city scenes by George Hendrik Breitner:
Because the RKD is not the owner of the intellectual property of most of the images (from works of art in countless public, private and in some cases unknown collections around the world), they are presented with a watermark. A large number of images can be downloaded for free with this watermark or for five euro’s without the watermark (excluding images from works of art in museums).
Users and user interaction
RKD Explore has been online since November 26, 2013 (Version 1.0). Version 1.1 and 1.2 have been released in April and November 2014 respectively, introducing new features and improvements to the previous version following from user studies. Google Analytics recorded over 1.000.000 visits, ca. 620.000 unique visitors and over 10.500.000 page views in 2014. Visitors come from all over the world. The amount of visitors under 35 is growing steadily, as well as visitor numbers in general. Users credit the easy of use of RKD Explore, the amount and richness of the data. They usually find more that they were looking for. Users can create a personal account to log in and use additional functionalities: give feedback and reactions to individual records, set preferred displays for all databases, view extensive search history and save searches for next visits.
Reuse of contents by others
To allow the exchange of RKDartists& data with third parties RKD Explore supports an open search API.