Closing Plenary: Collections of Distinction: Adding Value to the Online Community of Visual Resources

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Introductory remarks by Heidi S. Raatz, Minneapolis Institute of Arts for closing plenary session with Jason Roy of Minnesota Digital Libraries at VRA 28 Atlanta.

Introductory remarks by Heidi S. Raatz, Minneapolis Institute of Arts for closing plenary session with Jason Roy of Minnesota Digital Libraries at VRA 28 Atlanta.

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  • 1. Closing Plenary: Collections of Distinction: Adding Value to the Online Community of Visual Resources [Introductory remarks and introductions, Heidi S. Raatz, Visual Resources Librarian, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Session Organizer and Moderator] In a very recent article published in Research Library Issues, “The Collaborative Imperative: Special Collections in the Digital Age”,1 Anne R. Kenney of Cornell University concluded that in considering large-scale digitization projects, special collections units in research libraries must consider the changes granted via digital access to materials on a grand scale. Specifically, they need to avoid re-creating traditional approaches that fail to accommodate the differences and opportunities inherent in an online environment characterized by ubiquitous access, social networking, and Web 2.0 applications, values, and expectations. Special collections must take advantage of the blurred institutional borders, participatory digital communities and unaffiliated user groups when considering access to their materials and in identifying partners for collaboration. I would venture to say the same is true as we seek new avenues of approach for our rich, and often surprisingly unique visual resources collections and holdings. Our featured speaker Jason Roy has presented on the subject of digital collections and initiatives at the annual conferences of the Minnesota Digital Libraries (MDL), the Society of American Archivists Annual Conference, and the Archive-It Conference. Currently Head, Digital Collections Unit & Interim Co-director, Digital Library Development Lab, at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Jason fosters the creation of and access to research and scholarly material in digital form from within the collections of the Libraries and across the University of Minnesota. Making content available to users is an expectation shared by nearly every cultural organization. Often this means an increasing commitment to digitization and the use of online discovery tools for providing access. Since no one institution has the financial resources to digitize everything in their holdings, it is imperative that organizations identify and prioritize which collections most deserve their attention. This session will focus on approaches and methods of targeting those collections within your own institution that can provide the most value to users. By showcasing our own collections of distinction we can significantly impact the growing array of online visual resources now available to our community of users while still highlighting the uniqueness of each of our own holdings. In an era when it is all too easy for institutional administrations to view subscriptions to large image databases as a one size fits all solution to visual resources needs, a shift towards identifying what you have that's unique and getting it out there in a manner that makes your collection relevant to both your local 1 Anne R. Kenney. “The Collaborative Imperative: Special Collections in the Digital Age.” Research Library Issues: A Bimonthly Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC, no. 267 (Dec. 2009): 20-29.
  • 2. users and the larger universe of image users becomes vital. Some visual resources collections have already begun this process. Recent success stories include the accessCeramics collection, a pilot project organized by the Visual Resources Collection of Watzek Library and the Art Department of Lewis & Clark College2, and the Reed Digital Collections Artists' Books site at Reed College3. We can also learn from projects still in the earliest stages of development, such as Local Color: A Database of Art on Campus being developed at the University of Michigan.4 Jason's presentation in this session will be followed by a moderated discussion, featuring a panel of respondents who I will introduce after Jason has concluded his remarks. Our respondents include visual resources professionals who have achieved various measures of success in identifying, creating, and sharing collections of distinction. It is my great pleasure to present Jason Roy. [Jason’s presentation] I’d now like to introduce our panel of respondents, each of whom will give a very brief overview of their projects before we open the floor for discussion. Margo Ballantyne and Stephanie Beene, representing accessCeramics, Lewis & Clark College: Margo Ballantyne (unable to join us today) began her career in 1990 at Lewis & Clark College as the school’s first Visual Resources Curator. In the summer of 2006, Margo joined with Art Department and library colleagues to develop the idea of accessCeramics, an online database of contemporary ceramics. She served on the curatorial board and was a member of the grant-writing team for the 2008 NITLE “Instructional Innovation Fund” grant and the 2009 NEA “Access to Artistic Excellence” grant which grew the project. Margo was also a founding member and past Chair of the VRA Pacific Rim Regional Chapter and served from 2003-2005 as Secretary for the VRA. She also served as a Founding Director for the VRA Foundation. Margo retired from Lewis & Clark College in 2009 and is currently on hiatus from accessCeramics, leaving it in the able hands of Stephanie Beene, the current Visual Resources Coordinator. Stephanie Beene comes to Lewis and Clark from the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her M.S. in Information Studies, and was the Database Development Assistant at the School of Architecture Visual Resources Collection. She has an M.A. in Art History from the University of California, Riverside, and a B.A. in Art and Art History from Colorado State University. Stephanie has an impressive track record in visual resources collections, gallery, and museum work, arts education, digital library initiatives, and community service that she brings to Lewis & Clark. 2 accessCeramics: a contemporary ceramics image resource - 3 Reed Digital Collections: Artists’ Books - 4 Updates and announcements regarding the Local Color project will be available via the AAEL Blog -
  • 3. accessCeramics is a growing collection of images of contemporary ceramics by recognized artists. Designed for use by artists, arts educators, scholars and the general public, it is intended to fill a void in contemporary ceramics digital image collections on the Web. The project merges a traditional academic digital image collection's metadata capabilities with Flickr's openness and flexibility. accessCeramics is a pilot project organized by the Visual Resources Collection of Watzek Library and the Art Department of Lewis & Clark College. In 2008, the project received a NITLE Instructional Innovative Fund Grant and was the recipient of a 2009 NEA Access to Artistic Excellence Grant. Stephanie Beene: [Stephanie’s presentation] Karin Whalen, representing Reed Digital Collections: Artists’ Books, Reed College: Our second panelist, Karin Whalen is the Visual Resources Librarian at Reed College in Portland. Karin holds a Masters in Art History from the University of Oregon, and she has been an adjunct Professor of Art History at Portland Community College (PCC) and Mt. Hood Community College. At PCC she has been involved in the Study Abroad program emphasizing Art and Architecture of Renaissance Italy. She is also presently teaching Art History in the galleries at the Portland Art Museum. Karin has regularly presented papers, organized sessions, and co-taught workshops at the VRA annual conferences and the ARLIS/NA-VRA Summer Education Institute (SEI). She also served as the VRA co-chair for SEI. Karin was a founding member and first chair of the VRA Pacific Rim Regional Chapter and currently serves on the VRA Education Committee. The Collection of Artists’ Books at Reed College runs the spectrum of modern and contemporary artists’ books including traditional letterpress printed books of poetry, conceptual book works, sculptural and visual works, concrete poetry, and magazine works. This unique collection, which holds significant 20th century and contemporary artists’ books, gives students and the broader population insight into the significant role artist's books have played among the avant-garde of Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and the United States, from the turn of the last century to the present. The Artists’ Books website was developed as part of the Reed Digital Collections initiative to integrate digital assets into the liberal arts curriculum. Images in the collection are provided for members of the Reed academic community, for use in teaching, study, and research. Reed College students, faculty, and staff may use images for in-class display, as well as academic presentations, papers, assignments, and theses papers. Karin Whalen: [Karin’s presentation] Jamie Lausch, Local Color: A Database of Art on Campus, University of Michigan, Art Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL): Our third panelist Jamie Lausch is a University Library Associate and Master's student at the UM School of Information working in the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL) and a student member of VRA. Jamie divides her time at AAEL between reference services and projects behind the scenes, notably the creation of a database
  • 4. called “Local Color”, which will features art in University of Michigan campus buildings. She is also the Curatorial Research Center Librarian and Art Handler at the Unversity of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), assisting museum visitors find information about the objects in UMMA's collection. Jamie Lausch: [Jamie’s presentation] I’d now like to open the floor up for questions and discussion, and encourage you all to address our featured speaker Jason Roy as well as our panel of respondents Stephanie Beene, KarinWhalen, and Jamie Lausch. Sample questions and issues for discussion in the event that the audience is quiet – 1) In your experience, what are the recommended methods or tools for harnessing opportunities to build user communities and incorporate social networking around shared collections? 2) Certainly there has been a growing up-swell in support of the lifting of fees and restrictions on use of reproductions of works of art in the public domain. Major museums such as the V&A, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have begun to incorporate methods for actively distributing and sharing this content with users, particularly for scholarly and educational purposes. Interestingly, the projects each of our panelists represents incorporate images of works which are still under copyright protection. I’d be interested to hear how you addressed the issues of displaying and sharing digital images of non public domain works.