Beth Harris and Steve Zucker’s smarthistory is an exciting effort to re-imagine expensive Art History textbooks as open (as in free) web-based resources—with a Creative Commons share-alike license to boot. From what I understand from the original site designer, Joe Ugoretz, the first iteration of this project was built as a WordPress site under the IT radar of these instructors original institution as a way to start experimenting with the open web as a primary resource for their classes. Over the course of a number of years it has morphed into a pretty impressive site that is very much premised on small pieces of media from around the web loosely joined to create an open, web-based “textbook” (although I think that term does it no justice).
I love this project’s focus upon web-based multimedia, a reality that most of today’s textbook publishers have shunned. And on the rare occasions these publishers do go online, they spend all their time and money on locking stuff down rather than designing resources that are useful. Who needs ArtStor when we have Flickr? And this is where this site excels, not only is it a series of amazing resources that are linked through third-party sites like Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube, but it has also spent a lot of time and energy designing a very elegant site—I guess as any good Art History site must. And in recognition of this fact they have been nominated for a People’s Webbie Award, so if you’re into that kinda thing you can go and throw them a vote by April, 30th here. Congratulations on raising the profile of educational sites that don’t suck (both aesthetically and monetarily)!