VRA 2013, Redesigning Visual Resources Facilities, Pereira


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Presented by Caitlin Pereira at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, April 3rd - April 6th, 2013, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Session #6: Redesigning Visual Resource Facilities for 21st century Challenges
• Randi Millman-Brown, Ithaca College
• Jon Cartledge, Smith College
MODERATOR: Jon Cartledge, Smith College
• Jon Cartledge, Smith College
“Evaluating the Information Commons Model for Repurposing the Imaging Center”
• Elisa Lanzi, Smith College
“Re-imaging the Imaging Center”
• Randi Millman-Brown, Ithaca College
“Transparencies to Pixels: VRC to VRC”
• Mark Pompelia, Rhode Island School of Design
“Rebirth of Analog: How the Materials Collection Saved the Visual Resource Center”
• Caitlin Pereira, Massachusetts College of Art
“Refreshing the VR at MassArt on a Shoestring”
• Ann Whiteside, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Frances Loeb Library
“Transforming the Design Library for the 21st Century”

Endorsed by the Education Committee
Transforming visual resource libraries into modern, digital-savvy VR centers can be an exciting but complicated process. New spaces can become collaborative learning spaces for faculty and students and be on the forefront of new technologies. Speakers will present their planned or recent upgrades and remodels to show how they have utilized resources available to create new spaces with new uses, discussing topics that take the audience from space design theory to planning and practice.
Thursday April 4, 2013 9:05am - 10:25am

Published in: Education
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  • This talk was presented in Prezi. You can find the original here http://prezi.com/zhmxsiotyehv/c-pereira-vra-31/?kw=view-zhmxsiotyehv&rc=ref-573696
  • Hello! Today I am going to talk to you about the changes we made to the Visual Resource Space in 2010 at MassArt with no renovations, no new furniture and no money. Before we get to it, I will openly admit that I had selfish reasons for opening up the area and minimizing the presence of our slide cabinets, but it also was done to make our space better suit our current functions.
  • Lets start with our campusFor those who aren’t familiar, MassArt is an 140 year old, state funded, free standing, school of art and design. We have an FTE of about 1,900. Our campus takes up one city block and is comprised of hand-me-down buildings from Boston Normal School and Boston State College. MassArt took over the space when Boston State became part of Umass in the early 1980s. The campus is very “lived in” and tight on space. We are not not a school with lots of money but there has been significant investment in facilities in the past decade. There has been constant construction.
  • The library lives on the top two floors of our largest building, the Tower. We have not seen a renovation in the library since moving in. Our space is awkward and our furniture out dated, our HVAC system leaves much to be desired, and until very recently the roof leaked. The layout of the library is inefficient and the office space seems like an after thought. At the time I started this project there were whispers of a library renovation but nothing concrete. Now we have been allocated funds for some design work, so with luck we will officially make it on the list for renovations soon.In the mean time the VR needed a temporary solution to hold us over. A few design charettes for the library have been held with faculty and students and not shockingly there has not been a single mention of a slide library.
  • To clarify, one of the awkward things about of space is that the VR is really three separate spaces scattered across the 13th floor. What I am talking about it just the slide library and the two connected offices. There is a darkroom and an additional office elsewhere.So as you can see the space was still very slide-centric. We are not adding slides to the collection any more and the slides we do have hardly circulate these days so the furniture layout does not suit our function. Our services have become invisible but we as staff members shouldn’t be. The prominent slides cabinets make the space more intimidating and exacerbate the air and people flow problems we have. Additionally, the cabinets blocked all natural light to my office.
  • Here you can see a model of the space to get a better view and develop sympathy for my dark dark workspace in the upper right.
  • On the left is a lovely view of the Mission Hill section of Boston and on the right is the old view from my desk.
  • What did we do?We were not ready to completely discard the slide collection, but a renovation might force our hand on the front in the future. So we weeded out over 35,000 slides. Anything that was pink, a duplicate, or lacking good information was discarded. This left us with a collection of 90,000.We also shifted to fill in any gaps in the drawers which let us empty 32 cabinets. Thankfully this was enough to move the remaining cabinets to the walls.
  • The weeding and shifting took about a year of dedicated student labor but the rearrangement took only one week in the summer while the library was closed to the public so I could play my radio loudly and dress like a slob. I made a huge mess, but when it was all over the result was bright and airy. Just what I was hoping for.
  • I could even see a window and a tiny bit of direct sunlight from my office! It was glorious.As I was in the midst of the final shifting and discarding, I started thinking of a way to keep the space clear.
  • On our campus, once a space is cleared there is a line of people looking to fill it again.As our copy work has declined we have started to digitize more of our own unique collections which naturally makes the Archives a logical collaborator. We have no proper supervised space for patrons to use materials, so with the donation of a table and the promise to keep it clear, the archives was welcomed into the VR and our modified reading room was born.It seemed like a good solution to help out another department while keeping our new space relatively clutter free.
  • Sadly I was naïve when I made the arrangement. I knew our archives space was busting at the seams but did not expect any new, very large collections, to be acquired. Much to my chagrin, within a year of finishing the shifting a large collection of posters, and the enormous flat files that store them, took up residence directly in front of my slide of sunshine.We even had to close the blinds because of heat issues. So sad.
  • Is this my dream space? Not even close. It is still inefficient isolated and a bit ugly, but with a renovation on the horizon I have a a better vision of what would work for our department. We want to be visible as staff members to remind the school of our invisible services. Was it worth all the effort? YesWe couldn’t sit on our laurels waiting for a renovation to dictate who we are viewed by the school community. We need to, as best we can, project what we actually do now rather than what we did in the past. I miss my little bit of sunlight, but I am sure I will get it back one of these days.
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