The primary mission of Catena, the Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes, is to fill a void in American higher education by assembling a searchable collection of historic and contemporary images that include plans, engravings, paintings, and photographs to make the following possible:

Provide Images for Teaching Landscape Studies
Catena offers a readily available set of images to illustrate classroom lectures. It thus serves as a means of integrating a relatively new academic field into the curricula of institutions that, for lack of visual resources, would not otherwise be able to offer courses in landscape design history.

Integrate Images and Educational Materials
As an online resource, Catena makes it possible for scholars, teachers, and students of landscape history to fully integrate images and contextual materials in a more dynamic manner than is possible with traditional teaching and study materials.

Provide a Supplement to Textbooks
Digital technology offers an important way to augment the images found in books, which are necessarily limited because of publishers’ specifications concerning page count and illustration number. A textbook may have only one or two images of a major landscape site, but Catena can offer unlimited computer-accessible images.

Better Simulate the Experience of Landscape
Unlike other works of art that can be comprehended in a single view, landscapes are for the most part spatially extensive and should be experienced from multiple perspectives and several vantage points. Catena makes it possible to visually tour landscapes with plans that are keyed to sequences of views.

Preserve Existing Slide Collections
Catena performs a valuable visual resources preservation function. Slides have a limited life span. By scanning and cataloging the images that belong to the personal collections of professors and landscape photographers, Catena ensures that certain notable collections of images of historic gardens, parks, and cities are not lost.

The original outline of the mission of Catena was first discussed at an NEH-sponsored meeting on building a digital archive in March 2002. To view a report on the findings of this meeting, click here.

Learn more:
Project Team / Participating Institutions / Project Status


Villa Doria Pamphili (Rome, Italy), A pedestal in the bosco, 1640–1798, from Inigo Triggs, The Art of Garden Design in Italy, 1906.

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