Simpler, Faster, Better SAHARA Re-launches Mar. 9

by SAH News | Mar 09, 2015

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SAHARA, the online image library for SAH members, debuts a new interface on Monday, March 9th, a milestone that represents its first significant improvement in five years. Initially developed with a grant from the Mellon Foundation in collaboration with Artstor, this new system uses Artstor’s Shared Shelf platform to give users more flexibility with image contribution and documentation, and to enable wider sharing of digital content. SAHARA continues to enable users to share their work with the SAH community, while providing a rigorous, peer-reviewed process by which select images may be published to the Artstor digital library. The essential functions of SAHARA are the same in Shared Shelf, only easier.

Since its launch in 2010, hundreds of scholars have generously contributed over 60,000 high quality images of buildings, sites and landscapes around the globe, from the canonical to the commonplace. The collection continues to grow in breadth and scope, with coverage that spans every inhabited continent. At the same time, its editorial team of 25 historians and librarians ensures that images are of high quality and descriptive content is accurate, complete, and represents current scholarship.   


For the re-launch, SAHARA’s co-editors, Jackie Spafford and Jeffrey Klee, have worked with Pauline Saliga to refine the cataloguing system to make it easier for scholars to use while retaining the high quality of descriptive information that has made it an invaluable resource for architectural historians and a model collaborative project for digital humanities scholars. Long-time users will be impressed by the ease with which images can now be described and catalogued; new contributors, similarly, will find the system to be intuitive, sensible, and efficient, allowing descriptions to be as focused or as verbose as needed. Two key features of the new system are a spreadsheet-style viewer for managing multiple images, and a bulk-editing feature which allows entry of common descriptive information, such as copyright, photographer name, and building type, for many images at once. These features significantly reduce the time spent cataloguing images and will be a welcome enhancement for scholars accustomed to writing labels on 35mm slide mounts.

Sharp-eyed SAHARA users will also notice several new features in the search and display interface. Single images can still be downloaded, but groups of images can now be downloaded directly to PowerPoint, a significant time-saving feature for teachers. Additionally, image groups can now be created and shared with others, including non-SAH members, a feature that can be used to create study collections for students, for example. You can learn about these features and more in the extensive Artstor Help library and online tutorials.


Finally, SAHARA’s use of Shared Shelf allows for selective exposure of content outside SAHARA and Artstor, allowing the SAH to develop web galleries that can be published on an open access Omeka website. Artstor’s development of this tool means that SAHARA content can now help fulfill the SAH’s mission to share the work of its members well beyond the academy. Take a look at SAHARA at to see how impressive the collection has become, and then send us your own images so that you can participate in the creation of this essential resource.

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs. 

Contact: Helena Dean, Director of Communications,, 312.543.7243

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
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