New ‘Burlington Magazine’ Index — and Reasons to Use It

Posted in resources by Editor on October 5, 2010

The Benefits of Traditional Indexing versus Free-Text Searches

The Burlington Magazine has produced its own index with content up to December 1997. The editor of the Index, Barbara Pezzini, outlines some of the advantages it holds over JStor (from a recent discussion at ARLIS-L). To use the index, register at http://index.burlington.org.uk/ and a password will be emailed to you.

1) In the Burlington Index you can search for illustrations, which have been indexed and are vocabulary controlled. In JStor you can free-text search for captions, but in many captions the name of the artist is not included (especially in issues up to the 1970s), and when the artist is included, names are often cited with various and inconsistent spellings: i.e. Roger de La Pasture for Rogier Van Der Weyden, John Van Eyck for Jan Van Eyck, Baciccio for Gaulli, etc.
2) Illustrations in the Burlington Index can be browsed according to media and artists, and artist searches can be refined for works attributed to artists, formerly attributed, and a list of 10 other roles. For instance, one can search for prints after Raphael, for paintings formerly attributed to Giotto, Drawings from the circle of Michelangelo etc. This is simply not possible to do in JStor. This makes the Burlington digital photographic index, where users can search for images that appeared linked to exhibitions or in the art market, which then can be used to establish provenance and attribution history of works.
1) In the Burlington Index there is the opportunity to browse a complete census of all the contributors who wrote for the Burlington Magazine. Especially in the first fifty years of publications, many contributors signed articles with their initials only. In the Index it has been taken great care to associate those initials with authors, whereas on JStor the initials RF and Roger Fry are quoted as two different authors. This is particularly important when establishing bibliographies or reconstructing the critical personality of an author.
2) As for the illustrations, the contents indexed are vocabulary  controlled. As above, many artists’ names have inconsistent spelling and variations; in the Burlington Index they are cited consistently and linked to the Getty Ulan thesaurus to facilitate searching.
3) The keywords are vocabulary controlled as opposed to a free text search. For instance, there could be articles of Chinese Aesthetics where the word ‘Aesthetics’  is never used and so it would be missed, whereas in the Burlington, articles on Chinese aesthetics have been clearly indexed as such. The Burlington really surpasses JStor in this more ‘general keywords’ search. For instance, if you try to search for ‘museums architecture’ in JStor (Burlington Magazine 1903/03-1977/12), you obtain 1045 results, of which the first two are already false hits. In the Burlington Index, you will have 22 results of which only one is a false hit. Even more blatant the results for ‘National Gallery architecture’: over 1,500 hits in Jstor (of which 99.9% are false) and 4 true hits in the Burlington Index.
4) In the Burlington Index, searches can be highly refined. For instance, you can specify if you want to see results only pertaining to Vasari as an artist (opposed to a source) or Henry VII as patron (opposed to a simple subject) or Empoli as the artist Empoli as opposed to the town in Italy.
5) In the Burlington Index you can browse critical lists of museums, private galleries, artists, collectors, and patrons. This allows the user to gauge the depth of the indexing and makes the structure of the system more transparent.

These are all examples of differences between indexing and free-text searching. Then there are some limitations pertinent to JStor; the most annoying for me is that all the articles in one page have the same code, so that, say you are searching for Picasso, you have a list of all the articles present in one page, even if only one of them has got the reference Picasso in them.
Lastly, there is one thing that Jstor does better than the Burlington because it is a free-text search. If you are studying a minor personality, say the painter Nina Hamnett, JStor will give you all mentions (and some more, see point above) whereas in the Burlington, you’ll have only the most important critical citations.

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