Here’s how it evolved:

1970s: Bernard Smith, based at the University of Sydney, began research into Australian content for a new edition of Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, a German biographical dictionary of artists from all over the world.

The contribution evolved into an Australian Research Council supported project for a comprehensive dictionary of Australian art, to publish full original biographies of all Australian artists, to identify the artists’ work and interpret it critically within its contemporary context.

1981: After Smith’s retirement, the project was taken over by Professor Joan Kerr, who succeeded in maintaining Australian Research Council funding and refocussed the research to a manageable series of publications.

Kerr’s theoretical framework addressed art history as an analysis of cultural practice, based on a culture in use, not relying solely on the received wisdom of existing mediators. This is especially important for the way she included Indigenous art into the canon of Australian art.

1984: The first draft of Dictionary of Australian Artists, Working paper 1: Painters, Photographers and Engravers, 1770 – 1870, A-H is published with financial assistance from: The Australian Research Grants Scheme, The University of Sydney, The Myer Foundation, The Australian Academy of the Humanities.

1992: The completed Dictionary of Australian Artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870 is published.

1994: Professor Vivien Johnson publishes Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert (grants from Macquarie University Research Grants and AITSIS). Her inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to researching Indigenous art echoes Kerr’s, making her a key researcher in this field.

1995: Kerr extends her unique approach to research in Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book, which was made possible by grants from the Gordon Darling Foundation, Visual Arts Craft Board of the Australia Council, NSW Ministry for the Arts, the NSW Ministry for the Status and Advancement of Women.

2003: Kerr is diagnosed with cancer and subsequently invites Johnson to be her successor as Editor-in-Chief, citing in part the centrality of Indigenous art to Australia.

In the same year, the first meeting of prospective partners for the new Dictionary of Australian Artists Online was held. The group comprised staff from UNSW, University of Sydney, State Library of NSW, National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of NSW.

2004: Kerr passes away in February.

2005: Later that year, the Australian Research Council (ARC) confirmed the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online’s first Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant and work begins.

Leonie Hellmers joins the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online as Project Director, leading a team of technical and content staff to build and populate the first iteration of the site.

2007: The site is launched!

At the completion of the ARC funded development of Dictionary of Australian Artists Online, the University of Sydney and University of NSW join forces to support the maintenance of the system, providing funding for technical maintenance, a part-time editor and a Management Committee, chaired by UNSW Librarian, Andrew Wells.

2010: Further ARC LIEF funding is granted to transform Dictionary of Australian Artist Online into Design & Art Australia Online, a collaborative, open source and comprehensive e-research tool.

Dr Gillian Fuller joins the project as Research Director later that year, charged with the task of carrying out the site redevelopment.

After five years at the helm, Johnson asks Professor Ross Harley to succeed her as Lead Chief Investigator.

Johnson remains a member of the Editorial Board but steps down as Editor-in-Chief. Associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn and Dr Anita Callaway were nominated as joint Editors-in-Chief in her place.

2011: A wholly new site and redesigned database is launched in late July.

2015: DAAO is awarded another ARC LIEF grant, marking the 10th anniversary of the first one.