Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position and how you got into the field of visual resources?
I graduated with a dual masters in Library Science and Public History from IUPUI in Indianapolis. During my graduate career I had two internships at the Library and Archives for the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) and the Indiana Historical Society Library. During my internship at the IMA, I was responsible for processing and digitizing a collection, which was my first foray into the image management as well as metadata and cataloging. Following graduate school I applied for a VRAF internship award and was successful in acquiring it. I returned to the IMA where I worked on a project to set up a collection for the Conservation department in their newly implemented institutional DAMS. I currently am the Metadata Librarian for the Archives and Special Collections at University of Louisville where I am responsible for creating metadata for our vast photographic collections that are being digitized and included in our Digital Collections.
What is your favorite part about your work? Can you describe any project(s) you’re currently working on?
My favorite part of my work is discovering local history through visual resources. I moved to Louisville for this position and immediately began describing images from the 1920s to the 1950s without any previous knowledge of the area. The historical research that comes with properly describing images keeps me intellectually stimulated and engaged. Currently, I am working on the Caufield and Shook collection, a local photography studio that was in business from 1903-1978 and has approximately 500,000 negatives and prints. Using an in-house developed web based metadata form we call the Metamachine, allows myself and volunteer metadata creators in the department to work on the collection simultaneously. A paper on this process will be in the upcoming issue of Collections journals. Another project I am currently working on is the Warren Kellar Frederick collection. Frederick was an historic house researcher who documented Louisville homes from the 1920s-1950s, many of which are since demolished. Thankfully, he left detailed notebooks about most of the homes, so my research is mainly identifying their exact location and determining if they are still standing.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
A typical day is working through either the Caufield and Shook collection or the Frederick collection records. Depending on which collection and the available information, I can usually generate about 10-30 records a day. I also work the reference desk for the archives two times a week, plus serve on several university and library committees. But the majority of the time I am at my computer creating metadata records to add to our digital collections.
What were some challenges you came across when you first started out in the field of visual resources?
Undoubtedly, finding a job! It took me a year and half to find a full time job. Otherwise I was working part time grant funded temporary positions.
What skills do you use for your job that you didn’t learn while in school?
Almost all of my metadata skills were learned on the job! Additionally, understanding of DAMS and CMS and migrations from and to different systems was completely learned on the job. My school gave me the foundations, but my internships and jobs gave me the skills.
Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
In my first year on the job I doubled the amount of records in our digital collections for the Caufield and Shook collection, a collection that had been online since 2010. I am also very proud of the work I did as the VRAF intern at the IMA. Now the conservation department are preserving their born digital images by properly applying metadata and ingesting them into the institutional DAMS. I trained the staff on how to apply metadata using Bridge keywords (from a schema I created) and how to upload them to the DAMS.
What is one thing in the visual resources field that you think is lacking or missing?
Advocacy for the work we do, its importance, and how it impacts society. I think this is obvious to others in VR but not those outside the field.
What is something that most excites you about the field of visual resources.
Engaging researchers and creating access points to visual heritage.
Where else do you seek professional development opportunities other than VRA?
Mostly through web webinars from other organizations.
What other professional organizations are you a part of? Do you find professional organizations valuable?
I am a member of the Society of American Archivists, National Council on Public History, Midwest Archives Conference, and Kentucky Council on Archives. I find them extremely valuable, especially for access to resources for professional development, job listings, and annual meetings.
Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for emerging professionals and students in this field?
Do not pigeon hole yourself into one type of job. It’s nice to know what you want to do, but you may have to work different types of jobs within the field before you land that “dream” one.
What are some of your favorite things outside of work? What are some of your hobbies?
I love to karaoke, make subversive cross stitch, run, board games, and checking out the best cocktail bars in town.
Reach out to Rebecca at 📧firstname.lastname@example.org
You’re all out there doing such interesting work, and the VR community is a small one, so let’s get to know each other better! If you’d be willing to spend 30-45 minutes talking to me via Gchat or Skype (video or non-video), or if you’d like to fill out a Member Profile Questionnaire, please get in touch with me at email@example.com