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VRA 2014 Case Studies in International Resources, Madden

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Presented by Bridget Madden at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, March 12-15, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. …

Presented by Bridget Madden at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, March 12-15, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Session #2: Case Studies in International Resources
MODERATOR: Bridget Madden, University of Chicago
PRESENTERS:
Bridget Madden, University of Chicago
Patrice-Andre Prud'homme, Illinois State University
Amy Robinson, University for the Creative Arts (UK)
Andrea Schuler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This session will present four web resources that are international in origin, audience, material, and/or scope. The presenters will discuss various aspects of visual resources librarianship, including project management, workflow, cataloging, digitization, digital library platform design, interactive and special features, digital preservation, and collaboration.

Andrea Schuler will present the new digital library for Archnet, Patrice-Andre Prud’homme will speak about the creation of an interactive website for Niiyama Poetic Japanese Pottery, Amy Robinson will present the Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection which features digitized materials from the designer’s archive, and Bridget Madden will discuss hosting a public collection of the South Side Community Art Center’s images at an academic institution.

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  • The South Side Community Art Center formally opened in Chicago in December 1940 with funding from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, but it had ties to the Bronzeville artists' community for many years prior to its inception. The Center is located at 38th and Michigan, a little more than three miles due south of this hotel, and in the 40s it was a hotbed of creative and cultural output for the Black community. The Center is located in an old single-family house that it purchased with funds raised by the community. The core mission of the Center at its beginning was to be a place to teach, make, and exhibit works of art made by black artists in Chicago. The funds from the WPA supported faculty, staff, programming, and repairs and renovations to the Center’s building.Many renowned artists and authors passed through its doors, including Archibald Motley, Jr., Charles White, William Carter, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Richard Wright. Over the years, the SSCAC organically developed a collection of artworks, many of which were made by artists in the community. While the collection includes works from a variety of art historical periods and movements, the true strengths of the collection are the Black Arts Movement pieces from the 1940s through the 1970s.
  • Rebecca Zorach, Professor of Art History, Romance Languages, and the College at the University of Chicago, has served as an advisor and consultant to the Center for several years. Two of her current research interests include Black art and art of the 1960s in Chicago. She has worked on several digital image projects before, including the Speculum Romanae in conjunction with the University’s Special Collections Library. She’s a heavy user of VRC services, and often brings in unique content for us to digitize and catalog, such as the archive of Chicago South Side photographer Bobby Sengstacke and film strips of murals in Chicago by muralist Mark Rogovin.In Summer 2011, Rebecca approached the VRC with a new project idea: to help the South Side Community Art Center digitize, describe, and display its art collection. She was planning a course on the Black Arts Movement in Chicago for Winter 2013, and the VRC was tasked to include images in our LUNA database for her teaching needs.
  • At the VRC, we support the teaching and research of faculty members and students in the entire Division of the Humanities, but we predominantly work with the Department of Art History. In addition to creating images for coursework and research projects, the VRC also consults with faculty on digital humanities projects or other special projects. This talk is a case study of one of those special projects: as we were working on adding the Center’s images to our teaching collection, the scope of the project expanded and we realized we had an opportunity to create a devoted, publically viewable collection in LUNA for the art collection of the South Side Community Art Center, the last remaining Arts Center and the oldest surviving African American Center from the Works Progress Administration.
  • Rebecca received a $5,000 Partnership-in-Scholarship Grant for African American Historic Places from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and matched funds from a University of Chicago Arts Council Curricular Innovation Grant and her own research fund.The National Trust grant was designed to create partnerships between African American institutions with Universities and other institutions that had resources that could help with historic preservation. The grant was to be used to create and emphasize new forms of public access to the SSCAC. Their funds could not be used for cataloging or collections work, so the money from the University of Chicago was put towards hiring interns to do the photographing and cataloging of the Center’s collections. The PiS grant money was put towards related research, public programming, and the creation of a blog called Art of a Community Speaks. Rebecca also used grant money to hire a conservator to examine the paintings in the Center’s collection.
  • The VRC used existing workflows and image collections systems to prepare and present the SSCAC collection: a FileMaker Pro instance of VCat to catalog images, and the LUNA online image database for display and delivery.
  • The data collected by Rebecca’s interns was delivered to the VRC as a Google Docs spreadsheet. The former director of the VRC consulted on metadata assignment with the interns before the inventory began, and the data collected by the interns provided basic tombstone information for our cataloging records.The intern’s data was accurate and in pretty good shape for someone who was not formally trained in museum registration or inventory methods, and the data the intern could record was also limited by the records available at the Center. Even though the VRC consulted on metadata capture, some of the standard information that we would need for VRA Core and CCO was seemingly lost in translation: for example, the intern did not include artists’ life dates or nationalities in the spreadsheet. The VRC researched, often with Rebecca’s help, life dates and proper spelling for artists’ names, assigned subject headings to all works, and generally massaged the data in the intern’s spreadsheet to be Core 4 compliant. Because both the VRC, Rebecca, and the intern had simultaneous access to the Google Docs spreadsheet, we were able to get answers to our questions by highlighting things and adding notes right where the data was.Additionally, Rebecca gave the VRC PDFs of the conservation reports of paintings in the Center’s collection. As part of the grant Rebecca received for the project, she was able to hire a conservator whose reports proved to be very helpful to the VRC because the reports included signatures and other distinguishing inscriptions, noted the materials and support, and also provided a reference image of the work. This helped us be more complete in our catalog records because the intern often did not include information about the medium, and if there was any confusion about matching images with data the reference images helped tremendously. We were able to use these reports to flesh out several data fields.The VRC did not import any of the data from the spreadsheet directly into Filemaker because of these issues with data formatting and completeness. Rather, we cataloged each image individually in our instance of VCat in FileMaker Pro using the spreadsheet for basic tombstone information.Rebecca delivered more than 400 TIFF image files to the VRC on disc. The image files needed no processing on our end because they had been photographed professionally as part of the grant Rebecca received, although we did need to rename all of the files to match the accession numbers we use in our FileMaker Pro database, VCat. The file names had been created with the SSCAC collection number, and we moved that to the repository location information in VCat.The 426 images and comprehensive data records were uploaded to our LUNA database one month after we received the data for use by the University of Chicago community. The images were added to the “Art History Department Teaching Collection” collection (where the VRC adds all images that we scan and catalog to fulfill faculty requests) in LUNA right before the start of the Winter academic quarter in January 2013.
  • Rebecca had developed a class called “The Black Arts Movement in Chicago,” which she taught in Winter 2013. The class spent a fair amount of time at the Center, and the students’ first assignment was a visual analysis of an artwork they viewed in person there. Having the Center’s images in LUNA provided a great reference for students. Other assignments for the course required more open-ended searching in the database. For example, the second assignment required students to write a biography of an artist, and Rebecca encouraged them to use LUNA as well as other research tools including primary sources such as historic newspaper databases. The final assignment was a group project to propose a segment of an exhibition with individual object proposals, for which LUNA was extremely helpful. Because Rebecca and her students made heavy use of the SSCAC images throughout the course, it was great that LUNA afforded them the ability to view, download, and present images easily. Additionally, throughout the course Rebecca was able to send the VRC a handful of minor corrections that had been revealed through her own and students’ research.
  • In addition, a three-pronged exhibition called “AFRICOBRA in Chicago” launched in Spring and Summer 2013 based on Rebecca’s research and collaboration with the SSCAC as well as student research in her course. This exhibition took place at three different venues on the south side of Chicago: the South Side Community Art Center, the University of Chicago Logan Center, and the DuSable Museum. Rebecca notes that the exhibition component of this project was one of the ways that she and her interns set priorities and goals for the collections inventory and LUNA project.
  • So, How did the VRC get involved in making it a public resource, not just a resource for teaching at the University of Chicago?Rebecca’s grant proposal originally stated that the SSCAC would take the data and images resulting from the collection inventory and photographing and use it to create a collections website on their homepage. The SSCAC’s website does not feature very few artwork images from their collection, even in their gallery and exhibition announcements. The Center’s previous director had hired a web designer who would begin a complete website redesign with a collections component, but before finishing the project he disappeared! This is a screen capture of the current landing landing page for the Center …Rebecca approached the previous director of the VRC about the problem, and the VRC suggested that we had the capability to create a devoted, publicly available collection of images in LUNA, which would be a more amenable solution than the Center taking further efforts to develop a collections website from scratch. That was in Summer 2011 …
  • And in Summer 2013, with the cooperation and approval of the SSCAC’s Board of Trustees, the VRC moved forward with creating a devoted, publically viewable LUNA collection for the SSCAC images. The Director of the Visual Resources Center drafted a contract, and it was decided that 57 images that were created by unknown artists be removed from the publicly available collection in LUNA. It was decided that the posters and pamphlets, even though we did not know the artist, could stay in the public collection. The reason for the deletion of the unknown artists’ images is not entirely clear to us, but we think it may have to do with copyright concerns and the lack of accurate collections records on behalf of the Center.LUNA’s affordances made it an ideal solution to hosting a public collection for this arts organization on several levels. First and foremost, the infrastructure, including a VRA Core 4.0 cataloging template, already existed and nothing needed to be built from scratch. Additionally, we were able to include the SSCAC logo in the upper left hand corner, text describing the SSCAC’s mission, as well as a copyright statement prepared by the SSCAC.
  • The public has access to the fully searchable database, faceted browsing, and the ability to download load-resolution reference images from LUNA that would be suitably sized for use in a paper or a PowerPoint presentation. Users can pan and zoom through images and view the full data panel along the left side.We were also able to offer the SSCAC a redirected web address so that it can appear more in line with the SSCAC’s own web presence and not just a UChicago library address. We have yet to create the redirected web address alias for the collection, and the Center has yet to include a link to the LUNA collection in their web presence, but these are things that will hopefully be happening in the very near future. We are excited to see how the SSCAC will use the public LUNA collection in their programming, outreach, and exhibition development. In our own attempts to promote the public collection, we posted it to the VRC’s blog and Twitter account and also added it as an external link to the Center’s Wikipedia page.In an effort to readily share metadata about each image alongside the images, prior to releasing the SSCAC collection publically we embedded the metadata for each image using the Import/Export VRA Panel in Adobe Bridge. However, we discovered after uploading the images to a new public collection in LUNA that LUNA strips the embedded metadata from the images. We hope that this will change in future LUNA upgrades because right now LUNA only includes the metadata for images when a user downloads them as a PowerPoint file. If a user downloads one or more images as a zipped folder of JPEGs, there will be no image data. Since the images will be publically available to download reference images, it would be so useful to have the data embedded so that no matter how users take images out of LUNA they will be able to identify the works. And to our great excitement, in February we received a phone call from the organizer of the Chicago Heroes and Arts Adventures workshop, a partnership between the Borderbend Arts Collective and the Chicago Parks District, which takes place at Mozart Park in Logan Square asking for permission to use an image from the LUNA collection in their workshop this upcoming Monday, which will feature Burroughs’ artwork and her legacy in Chicago. They have included thumbnails of 5 images by Burroughs in LUNA on the website for the workshop and included a link to the LUNA collection.Rebecca notes that the process of making the collection publicly viewable took significantly longer than expected (the images were available to the University of Chicago community in LUNA in January 2013 and not publicly available until December 2013) due to several concerns from the Center: the center has a very small staff, and there are legitimate fears about what would happen when the images go live and people know what’s out there. Would they have to pay more money to insure the collection? Would it increase administrative requests for reproductions or requests to view works? There were also anxieties about copyright and who actually owns the images. Rebecca suggests that it was a risky experiment for them, but there is the potential for some good things to come out of the challenges—the possibility to take in revenue from reproduction requests, or a boost in attendance for programming. The SSCAC is still discovering works that are in its collection, and is still actively acquiring works, so it is likely that at some point another batch of images and data will be added to the LUNA collection, although at this point there is no timeline or process in place to make this happen.The VRC is archiving our own copies of the TIFFs locally because the collection remains part of the Art History Department Teaching Collection, but we are not the repository of note for the digital images. The SSCAC will be given copies of the TIFF files, the Google Docs spreadsheet, and a copy of the data exported from our FileMakerPro database.The entire SSCAC collection remains in the Art History Department Teaching Collection as well, including works by unknown artists, for use only by students and instructors at the University of Chicago.This case study provided us with the unique opportunity to collaborate with a local community collection and a faculty member to create a resource that benefits members of both audiences. This was our first opportunity to work with an arts organization that was entirely separate from the University, and we were thrilled that we were able to offer and deliver a publicly available digital collection that the Center had never had before, bringing attention to its storied history and current endeavors.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The South Side Community Art Center’s Collection: Creating a Devoted, Public Collection in the University of Chicago’s LUNA Database Bridget Madden, Assistant Director, Visual Resources Center, University of Chicago VRA 2014 Session 2: Case Studies in International Resources March 12, 2014
    • 2. SSCAC Howard Simmons, left, with fellow photographers Bob Black, John White, and Ovie Carter, photographed by Howard Simmons outside the South Side Community Art Center in 1973
    • 3. Archibald Motley, Jr., Sunday in the Park, 1941.
    • 4. William Walker, Untitled, n.d.
    • 5. Barbara Jones-Hogu, Black Men We Need You, 1971.
    • 6. Bob Black, Point of No Return, n.d.
    • 7. Margaret Taylor Burroughs, In School–Together, n.d.
    • 8. Ralph Arnold, Love Sign II, 1995.
    • 9. John H. White, Hal-Le-Lu-La, n.d.
    • 10. Rebecca Zorach • Professor of Art History, Romance Languages, and the College at the University of Chicago • Research interests include late medieval and Renaissance art and art in Chicago in the 1960s, especially the Black Arts Movement
    • 11. Grants Supporting the SSCAC Project • $5,000 Partnership-in-Scholarship Grant for African American Places from the National Trust for Historic Preservation • University of Chicago Arts Council Curricular Innovation Grant • Zorach’s own research fund
    • 12. VRC Workflow • FileMaker Pro instance of VCat (VRA Core 4.0 compliant) • LUNA online image database • Google Docs Spreadsheet created by Zorach and her interns to inventory SSCAC collection • Conservation documents
    • 13. ARTH 17505: The Black Arts Movement in Chicago • Undergraduate course taught by Zorach in Winter 2013 • Visits to the SSCAC and supplemental viewing of images online in LUNA
    • 14. Bridget Madden bridgetm@uchicago.edu @uchivrc South Side Community Art Center in LUNA http://luna.lib.uchicago.edu/luna/servlet/uofclibmgr2~4~4 University of Chicago Visual Resources Center http://arthistory.uchicago.edu/vrc

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