Chatelaine Ads

Background and Critical Context

Putting Questions to Images: The Chatelaine Networking Project began in the summer of 2004, with the idea to digitize the popular Canadian women's magazine, Chatelaine (1928-), for the purpose of creating access to an on-line edition. With the digitization of a single issue (June, 1943), it became clear that the images in the magazine, specifically the advertising images, could provide a wealth of information to scholars with a variety of research interests.

Traditionally, the tools and controlled vocabulary for indexed image databases have been developed primarily for art historians, where the information is categorized by provenance, school and medium. This approach limits the access of researchers in fields outside of museums and archives. What this project has tried to do is develop metadata and a data model that would allow researchers from a variety of disciplines to benefit from the cultural and sociological cues available in the analysis of visual imagery. Generally, there seems to be a problem between the questions researchers are posing to existing image databases--there is a disconnection between the researchers' research concerns and the resulting response to their formulated query.

This database attempts to address the issue of access to images by scholars with little knowledge of art history or experience in a museum setting. A successful model created for Chatelaine magazine could be expanded into an advertising database to encompass images from all Canadian women's magazines.

The Chatelaine Project network group is made up of about 20 participants from the research communities of interest for this project: Humanities and Social Science scholars (History, Women's Studies, English, Cultural Studies, Communications), Marketing and Art History; Librarians; and Computer Science Specialists. Funding for the period of one year was granted by the Image, Text, Sound and Technology (ITST) division of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in late 2005; and the tenure of the grant was extended to 31 July 2007.

This grant has enabled collaboration between technical and humanities approaches to the material to explore the metadata and analytical issues. Three main phases describe the project: identification of key elements; creation of data model and XML schema; and image indexing. The project has maintained a phased-development approach, and as we approach the end of the grant period we have identified future steps for the creation of an active image database.