Smarthistory: Help Kickstart 100 New Art History Videos

Last week, Smarthis­to­ry, the mak­ers of out­stand­ing free art his­to­ry videos, launched a nov­el fundrais­ing cam­paign using Kick­starter, a fundrais­ing plat­form for the arts world. The goal? To raise $10,000 to fund 100 new art his­to­ry videos (like these), which will col­lec­tive­ly cre­ate a free alter­na­tive to the tra­di­tion­al and very expen­sive art his­to­ry text­book. Below, the founders of Smarthis­to­ry (Beth Har­ris, Juliana Kreinik and Steven Zuck­er) tell you more about the cam­paign. If you per­son­al­ly ben­e­fit from open edu­ca­tion­al resources, or sup­port the idea of democ­ra­tiz­ing knowl­edge, we’d strong­ly encour­age you to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the Smarthis­to­ry cam­paign, which can be as small as $10. Take it away Beth and Steven…

A WEEK AGO, we launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to raise $10,000 to help us cre­ate 100 more videos for, the Web­by-award win­ning art his­to­ry open edu­ca­tion­al resource (OER). It was a great week thanks to our amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ty of sup­port­ers, and although we’ve raised near­ly 50% of our goal, we need to keep this momen­tum going and would be extreme­ly grate­ful for your sup­port. These addi­tion­al videos will make Smarthis­to­ry a tru­ly viable, free alter­na­tive to the tra­di­tion­al and very expen­sive art his­to­ry text­book. If you haven’t watched the video, or looked at our page on Kick­starter, take a moment to do that—it explains every­thing.

The OER com­mu­ni­ty has has turned its focus to the ques­tion of sus­tain­abil­i­ty, how often cost­ly projects, can be sus­tained for the long term. was designed to be sus­tain­able and to have min­i­mal ongo­ing costs from the out­set; our back-end uses MODx, an open-source con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem, and all of our con­tent comes from vol­un­tar­i­ly con­tri­bu­tions. Last week, Philipp Schmidt, of Peer to Peer Uni­ver­si­ty, wrote a blog post about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of using Kick­starter to help sup­port the OER and OCW (open course­ware) com­mu­ni­ties. It will be inter­est­ing to see if Kick­starter is a viable means of sup­port for open edu­ca­tion ini­tia­tives like Smarthis­to­ry.

From incep­tion, we have sought to be a syn­thet­ic resource that push­es beyond insti­tu­tion­al boundaries—in terms of the col­lec­tions we draw from, our aca­d­e­m­ic con­trib­u­tors, and the stu­dents we serve. It’s worth not­ing that, in addi­tion to being a means to raise funds, Kick­starter is also a mea­sure of our project’s val­ue for oth­ers. For us there is an impor­tant para­dox, how­ev­er, since the bulk of the peo­ple we serve—college students—are per­haps the least like­ly to sup­port us with dona­tions, and are less like­ly to have the finan­cial means to do so. So far, the bulk of our dona­tions have come from fac­ul­ty, infor­mal users, the OER and education/technology com­mu­ni­ty, and our sup­port­ers.

In 2010, was vis­it­ed more than half a mil­lion times by vis­i­tors from more than 150 coun­tries. Near­ly one hun­dred uni­ver­si­ties, libraries and muse­ums now rec­om­mend Smarthis­to­ry and instruc­tors are increas­ing­ly adopt­ing it in place of the expen­sive text­book. The ques­tion is, can we trans­form this user base into a donor base. Please help us turn this goal into a real­i­ty (con­tribute here) and spread the word about Kick­starter. Maybe crowd­sourced fund­ing can offer a real alter­na­tive for open ini­tia­tives.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.