Reference eReviews | August 15, 2013

Bridgeman Education
Bridgeman Art Library;
By Cheryl LaGuardia


Content Bridgeman Education is an interdisciplinary online database offering access to the Bridgeman Art Library, a collection of more than 500,000 JPEG images (with 500 more added each week) from 8,000-plus museums, galleries, contemporary artists, and private collections from around the world. Images date from prehistory to the present day and include a host of media and sources, such as fine art (representing more than 30,000 artists), anthropological artifacts, antiques, architecture, ceramics, design, engravings, furniture, glass, maps, photography, sculpture, and more.

All images in the file are copyright cleared for educational use and are available for commercial licensing. Bridgeman provides customers with reproduction licensing and advises on clearing artist’s copyright if additional permission is needed. Copyright holders receive renumeration in the form of half the reproduction fee paid by the customer.

Usability Bridgeman Education (BE) opens with a clean screen offering a single search box; a link to advanced search is front and center. A revolving set of images below the search box is guaranteed to draw users into the file faster than any other device I’ve ever come across in an online database. These lovely images at review time spotlighted, for example, “Flowers on the Windowsill,” from the “A Home” series, c.1895 (watercolor on paper); “Irregular Arches on the Second Floor Gallery, Central Patio, House of Pilate, Seville, Spain, 2007 (photo)”; “The Strawberry Thief” textile designed by William Morris (1834–96) 1883 (printed cotton), which invites users to “Browse the handcrafted work of Morris & Co. in our archive”; and “The Cloud Damsels,” a detail of a fresco from the Rock Fortress, 5th century.

So enticing were these sample images I simply couldn’t hold back, so I searched for (one at a time) The Scream, Arthur Rackham, John Tenniel, Judy Chicago, Pompeii, Dead Sea scrolls, Robert Mapplethorpe, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Paul Revere, Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, Clarice Cliff, Seth Thomas, Annie Leibovitz, Basho, millefiori, and Thomas Dennis and found items in the database for every one of these terms.

Having gotten a better sense of how extensive the file is, I took a close look at the main screen, which lists at screen top a number of usual links (home, about, register, and contact) as well as three not-so-usual options: “Using the Site,” “Resources,” and “Subjects.” The site-usage section includes links to key features showing ways to get the most out of BE, including search tips, how to save and retrieve images, multiple ways of displaying images, and, under content, a link to the image-bank page where key content is outlined, e.g., 3,000 frescoes, 1,800 oils, 22,600 ceramics, 28,000 portraits, etc.

Search assistance includes in-depth tips on using quick search, advanced search, and subject categories. A slideshows section describes how to put together, annotate, view, and download slideshows within the file; a 26-page PDF site user manual details how to use the site and is available in English, German, and Mandarin Chinese; and the site map lists everything offered by BE in outline form. While the options here are helpful, I found myself wishing for a jump page for the About, Using the Site, and Resources links on the main page. Right now users must select the link from a mouse-over dropdown window.

The resources section offers “Summer Olympic Posters: Where Art and Sport Meet,” an “entertaining educational activity on the topic of the ‘Olympic Summer Games’” put together by the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and the Bridgeman Art Library in London. It’s aimed at “art teachers, art historians, [and] teachers interested in bringing together art and sport as well as other subjects such as social, political and cultural history…[and] students aged 10 to 14 who want to discover and absorb various pieces of information in order to allow their imagination free rein to create their own poster.”

The subjects section is astonishing. It allows patrons to browse the file using 13 different subject areas: movement, period, or school; subject; medium; objects; conceptual images; history of science; graphic design; Chinese art; Japanese art; secondary schools; Indian art; fashion; and Bridgeman standard classification (which draws on “categories used for over 40 years by researchers and commercial clients of the Bridgeman Art Library…[guiding] you through a wide range of topics such as people and places, slavery, society, religion and sports…”). In fact, there are so many subcategories that it’s impossible to list them all here.

Advanced search allows users to narrow searches by artist, nationality, title, century, ID number, location, keywords, description, medium, and classification and to sort by relevance, image number, artist name, artist nationality, and medium. A search for 20th-century photographs by Italian photographers located 243 images in about three seconds. An advanced search for “cat” (keyword) “sculpture” (medium) found no results, but a quick search for “cat sculpture” unearthed 63. I don’t much like advanced search: it uses a dropdown menu only (which is tricky when filling in multiple boxes) and requires the researcher to read a separate search-help page. The advanced search link should lead to a new page where tips are provided along with search capability.

Pricing Bridgeman offers unlimited access to Bridgeman Education for a flat-rate annual fee as follows: for elementary and high schools the fee is $500/year; for public libraries the price ranges from $1,000 to $3,500 depending upon the number of branches; and for colleges and universities the price ranges from $1,000 to $5,000, depending upon FTE served. Consortial pricing is available.

Verdict Bridgeman Education is breathtaking: a beautifully rendered product at a sensible price, obviously a labor of love and enormous creativity. The high-quality and extensive content is made easily accessible through quick search and browsing in a wealth of categories and subcategories. Unreservedly recommended for all libraries serving anyone needing art and historic images.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author ofBecoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at

Plum Analytics;
By Bonnie J.M. Swoger


Content PlumX is an analysis tool aimed at helping libraries and research administrators understand the influence of their researchers’ work by using newer alternative metrics, called altmetrics, alongside traditional measures of research impact. Traditionally, research impact was measured in narrow terms related to total citations (from academic journals) and a Journal Impact Factor calculated by Thomson-Reuters. In recent years, however, researchers have started to acknowledge both the desire to find measures of impact that work in the short term, before citations are recorded, and the need to acknowledge uses of research beyond citations. In addition, some scholars are starting to recognize the impact of work products outside of peer reviewed articles, such as software, datasets, and presentation slides. Several altmetrics tools (like ImpactStory and Altmetric) allow individual researchers to gauge the impact of their work. Some publishers have started incorporating altmetrics on the webpages of published articles.

PlumX seeks to provide administrators with a bird’s-eye view of the influence of their organization or group by providing access to traditional citation metrics and newer alternative metrics in one interface.

Customers provide PlumX with researcher names and “artifacts” (the articles, datasets, presentation slides, and other materials that represent a researcher’s work). PlumX then uses a wide variety of data sources to collect information about those artifacts. Information is divided into five main categories. “Usage” includes how many times an articled was viewed online, how often the PDF was downloaded, or how many libraries own a book. The “Captures” category records how often users are bookmarking an article in Del.ici.ous, adding an article to a group on Mendeley, or adding a YouTube video to their “favorites.” The “Mentions” category features blog posts about an artifact, comments on Facebook, or citations on Wikipedia. “Social Media” data lists the number of Facebook “likes” and shares, tweets, and Google+ +1’s. And the most traditional category, “Citations,” includes data from Scopus and PubMed.

This data can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Because PlumX can compile institutional repository data with other data sources, libraries can help determine the performance of their repository. Administrators can get greater information about the short-term impact of their researchers’ work. Research organizations can determine whether they are clearly communicating their scientific research with the public and with other scientists.

Usability Like many systems that attempt to track researcher productivity and bibliometrics, the time required to add user data to the system can be significant. PlumX works with customers to add initial data in bulk, at which point individual researchers can claim their own profiles or library liaisons can add additional information. The use of author ID systems (like ORCID) simplifies some of this. PlumX also works with customers to group researchers appropriately (e.g., by school or department).

Once the data is entered, administrators have a lot of flexibility regarding how they access the information, including on-screen data selection, data download, and visualizations.

Upon logging in, administrators see an overview of data for their entire organization. The top of the page lists a summary of the types of artifacts being tracked, links to individual researcher profiles, and links to departments and groups. Beneath this are the most recent items being tracked by the system and summary statistics for the five PlumX impact categories.

At this point, users can easily drill down into the data for various researchers or departments or can select specific data types to examine for the collection as a whole. Users can also download the entire dataset (or parts of the dataset) to analyze offline.

PlumX tracks many data sources and this quantity of information can quickly get overwhelming. To help users understand what they are seeing, the system uses a “Sunburst” style visualization that illustrates artifact types, individual artifacts, and the data from each source. The visualizations have potential but still seem like information overload, even at the level of an individual researcher.

Because the company considers this version of PlumX a Beta release, new features and data are in the process of being added. One important aspect of these metrics that is currently missing is a way to provide context to the data. If an article has been tweeted about twice and saved to Mendeley ten times, is this good or bad? PlumX representatives indicated that they are working on visualizations to help compare researchers to each other and to compare one group of articles to another. They are also exploring various aspects of cohort analysis to help users understand what these metrics actually mean.

Tools that allow customers to use the PlumX data in other places show great potential. The PlumX open API is currently available on GitHub, and the team is working on widgets that will allow customers to incorporate PlumX data into other websites.

Pricing Individual researchers can request profiles at PlumX for free. Pricing for institutions is tiered and based on the number of researchers tracked by the system. Individual departments or entire organizations can use PlumX. The product is still in Beta, so prices are subject to change as the service develops.

Verdict PlumX may be of interest to academic libraries, special libraries, research support offices, and anyone seeking to better understand how the research output of their organization is being used. The tools that assess research impact beyond citations are new, and it will take some time to determine how useful these metrics are to administrators and researchers. The data sources PlumX uses are focused in the sciences, especially the biomedical sciences, and will be best for libraries serving researchers in those fields (see an interview with Plum Analytics cofounders Andrea Michalek and Mike Buschman on p. 120).

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at