In the case of The Arts Map, the application allows artists and arts related institutions to locate themselves on a global map, with a virtual pin tied to a pop-up with more detailed information for those browsing or searching.
Paintmap is focused on pinpointing the location of individual paintings, allowing the user to select a location, view thumbnails of paintings painted of or in that location and see them in more detail, along with information about the artist. It’s a nice idea, reasonably well executed in many respects, though a bit awkward in others.
You can search for a particular location (or artist) or browse from the page of an existing location or work through thumbnails that link to more works from that location, more works by that artist, or links from an artist’s page to other artists they like.
Pages for individual works also show show thumbnail images of photographs from the same location when available. In addition you can search by tags, like “river”, field”, etc. There is a Paintmap blog that describes some of the site’s evolving features.
You can use the main map window much like any Google Maps window, zoom and scroll around and look for points of interest in various locations, highlighted by thumbnails, or stacks of thumbnails.
Some things could be implemented batter. On the detail page for individual paintings, for example, there is a smaller map window the pinpoints the location assigned to the painting, but it seems to default to satellite view, and the most zoomed in view available; often leaving you with a zoomed in view of a nondescript piece of road until you take the trouble to zoom out and adjust the view — not as useful as it might be.
The system does encourage casual browsing, though finding artists you like is also not as easy as it might be. I get the impression that one of the intended uses is for artists to create and link to the Paintmap listings for their works from their own sites, adding a “here’s where I painted this” feature to their online galleries.
I assume that the ability for users get an account, sigh in and mark artists that they like, and then recommend them to others, will help in terms of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Both Paintmap and the Arts Map face the same “Catch-22″; in that these kinds of resources are most valuable when well-attended and well used, but need to already be popular to attract the kind of attention necessary to get large numbers of artists to participate.
So far, in both cases, adoption seems to be relatively slow, leaving the maps pretty thin in most places. It’s a promising idea, however, and I hope that Paintmap grows into its potential.