Art History Timeline

As part of a class project we wish to explore the benefits of creating a digital Art History Timeline, that students could potentially contribute to in class.

I was initially inspired by the thought of creating a collaborative Art History timeline at the beginning of the year during a visit to my Prac School. Several years ago while I was studying my Fine Art Degree I used to have pinned up on my wall at home the TATE Artist Timeline and found it incredibly useful when working on Art History assignments. As a visual thinker I found it useful when trying to place artists and movements in relationship to each other, I also found it valuable when relating these periods to very specific periods in history.

Considering the position that Visual Arts students are also primarily visual learners, we felt that it was important for us to work towards creating (or sourcing) digital technology that would best support this perspective. Art History is an important part of the NSW Visual Arts curriculum, but implementing it into lesson plans is tricky given that students generally explore artists from different time periods as part of one unit of work. Artists and movements are often selected and grouped together under themes like ‘Landscape’, ‘Portraiture’ or because they share other commonalities, and regardless. What is less commonly explored is the development of an Artist’s practice over time, and how one Artist or movement has influenced another through the linear course of time.

I believe the physical timeline can still hold valuable within the class when conveying lessons in Art History, and getting the students to compose their own on paper pinned up on the class wall I’m sure is still valid. Being able to incorporate an activity like this on a digital platform may also prove valuable.

When deciding on an appropriate application there were a few questions that needed answering:

  • The application needed to be web based (to avoid any device specific complications)
  • Accessible and easy to use and manage
  • Affordability (preferably free)
  • Allow for Teacher input and management

After some research I came across an amazing timeline application called Timeline JS, which is an open sourced project found on GitHub. This app allows users to create an interactive timeline sourced from a Google Docs spreadsheet. The end product can be posted directly onto a website through the use if the iframe tags, or on a WordPress site with the use of a specifically designed plugin.

In order to ensure that all the students have an equal opportunity to collaborate and contribute to the project we need to start with Google Docs, a common and affordable framework. This can be achieved through Google Apps, and would work best if the school already has this initiated. Some schools have already started incorporating Google Apps into their IT framework.

Both Luke and I have been testing this application out, and so far we have come across one significant limitation, which at this point prevents us from displaying our efforts here. Unfortunately wordpress.com doesn’t allow it’s users to post either iframe or javascript content into blogposts or pages on the free accounts. Their reasoning is it’s too much of an online security risk, more information is available here. I was however able to post our progress on my personal blog.

I will however continue to seeking out ways of including the timeline here as we reckon it’s too good an app to be left out.

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