The Carnegie Museum of Art has announced a site tool which provides information about both items that are on display in the museum and items which are in storage or rarely exhibited.
The museum’s Web site is http://www.cmoa.org/ , while their new search tool is available at http://www.cmoa.org/searchcollections/ . At this writing the tool has information on just under 30,000 items.
Search is by keyword; you can choose to search by title or creator name, or search by approximate date. You can also choose to search the entire collection or only the works of Charles “Teenie” Harris (Charles Harris was a respected African-American photographer; for details see his Wikipedia article or the biography from the Negro League Baseball Players Association.) You can restrict your results to only those with images (most of the entries have images, but some don’t, apparently due to copyright restrictions.)
I did a search for streetcar and got six results, three from Charles Harris and three from other photographers. Search results include a thumbnail, creator, and creation date. (Strangely enough the Charles Harris picture looked like it was the same one repeated three times — an Oldsmobile from the early 40s.) Click on the thumb for a detail page with larger picture and details, then again for an even larger picture — which wasn’t large enough, really, to appreciate the details. Do a search for restaurant and you’ll get some amazing early 1900s photographs, and photographs from Charles Harris, which aren’t provided in sizes large enough to appreciate the detail.
Whine whine whine. Anyway, if you can’t think of something to search for try doing a highlights search , which’ll give you a good overview of things available at the museum. (And there’s way more than photographs — there’s paintings, furniture, silver, etc.) You can also view items new to the collection and items which are on display. A search form at the top of the results restricts your search to just those items.
If the photographs were a little bit larger, I would seriously spend hours here. As it is the database is full of interesting material but it’s frustrating to try to use it.