The Next Generation of Online Publishing: Building on What We’ve Learned Together

Greg Albers, The J. Paul Getty Trust, USA

Published paper: Bringing books online

In 2009, the Getty Foundation launched the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) to convene and fund a cohort of eight participating museums exploring the possibility of publishing scholarly catalogs online. Six years later it was an undeniable success—all eight museums had produced online catalogues, and all eight were planning to publish more. The question for the museums, and for many others in the field watching the initiative’s progress, was no longer whether museums should publish scholarly catalogues online, but how best to do so.

As reported by OSCI participants directly, and as seen in a number of subsequent user studies, there were three particular challenges many of the first catalogs faced: discoverability, longevity, and objectness. In other words, how the books are found, how they are maintained, and how readers understand their boundaries and status as formal publications. These challenges give us a roadmap to building the next generation of online publications, particularly by focusing on metadata best practices, multiple-format and static-site publishing, plain-text source material, transparent version control, and thoughtful UI. This paper delves into the lessons the community of museum digital publishers has learned so far, and begins to chart a course for the future.


"Museum Catalogues in the Digital Age: A Final Report on the Getty Foundation’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative" (to be published online Fall 2016)

"Online scholarly catalogues: Data and insights from OSCI", Laura Mann (

"Electronic Publishing" in the NMC Horizon Report, 2013 Museum Edition (

"Moving Museum Catalogues Online: An Interim Report from the Getty Foundation"(

"The Transition to Online Scholarly Catalogues", Nik Honeysett. (

"Integration of Print and Digital Publishing Workflows at the Art Institute of Chicago", Sam Quigley and Elizabeth Neely (

"Why Static Website Generators Are The Next Big Thing" (

"Portable Web Publications Use Cases and Requirements", W3c (

Current Work at the Getty:

"Roman Mosaics at the J. Paul Getty Museum" (

"Ancient Terracottas from South Italy and Sicily at the J. Paul Getty Museum" (

Getty Publications on GitHub (