Digitization and preservation resources

Today I thought I’d provide links to a few resources that provide (free) technical information for the preservation and digitization of images:

For technical specifications related to image digitization, you can’t go wrong with the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI): it’s developed by the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the National Gallery of Art (among others): LINK to still image digitization; LINK to list of digitization guidelines for film, audio-visual, etc.

For preserving physical objects such as photographs, check out the numerous free publications available from the Image Permanence Institute (IPI): LINK

Finally, for a good overview of all aspects of image management (both physical and digital), have a look at the leaflets provided by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC): LINK


Get published in the VRA Bulletin

Hey all – just a reminder that you can publish in the VRA Bulletin! The deadline for submission for the summer issue is June 30, and if you give a presentation (say, at the ArLiSNAP/VREPS 2016 Virtual Conference), you can easily transform that into an article. Submission details and guidelines below:

The VRA Bulletin provides a professional forum for the discussion and dissemination of ideas and information directly related the the field of visual resources. We accept feature length articles (usually about 5,000 words); reviews on books, tools, resources (c. 1,000 words); opinion pieces (c. 3,000 words); and association news. The length doesn’t matter since it is online and we encourage authors to take full advantage of being online by adding images, links, etc. The only thing to consider is download time if the file gets too big. I suggest looking at past issue articles to get a feel for it.

The home page is at http://online.vraweb.org/vrab/ where the most recent issue can be found and potential authors can submit articles to the online system from there.

Authors should also review the submission guidelines at http://online.vraweb.org/vrab/submguide.html for more guidance about fonts, spacing, formatting etc.

The editors are always happy to help in any way:
Maureen Burns, Content Editor, moaburns@gmail.com (310-489-3792)

Hannah Marshall, Production Editor, marshall.hannah.marie@gmail.com

Common Interview Questions

As a recently graduated (and subsequently hired!) information science student, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and resources that I found most useful in my job search (part II). If you have any questions you’d like to add or any inquiries for someone who’s been there, please post in the comments!

-Interview Questions

Below is a list of questions that equipped me to answer most of the queries that came up in my interviews, but not all questions listed here will necessarily be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing (the questions in bold are ones that came up in virtually every interview I had):

  • What interests you in this position and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?
  • Describe the top 3 skills you have that are most relevant to this position.
  • Identify words that describe you and your characteristics.
  • What are your weaknesses? (don’t say something that blows them off, but don’t get too negative; you want to give your answer a positive spin while still being honest. Alternatively, you could say something like, “I don’t have much experience with [x] database/software, but I was able to learn [y] during my internship.”)
  • Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  • Give an example of how you set goals and achieve them.
  • When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
  • How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?
  • Give an example of how you work with a team.
  • Give an example of how you handled a difficult team member/situation.
  • What are your preferred ways of keeping up with what is going on in the field?
  • Describe 2 or 3 trends that you believe will have the greatest impact on the field in the near future.
  • What makes a job appealing to you?
  • What are your long range career goals and how would working in this position further them?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Why do you want to work at this institution? (this is where you showcase your research into the institution itself – very important)
  • Why should we hire you? (this is your opportunity to provide a sound bite on you – something concise that will stick with them)
  • Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to tell us?
  • Do you have any questions for us? (have 3-5 prepared for each group of people interviewing you – EXTREMELY IMPORTANT)
  • What qualities and skills do you have that enable you to interact well with colleagues, coworkers, and the public in general?
  • One of the challenges for liaisons is to make meaningful contact with the faculty in their departments. What have you found to be the most productive ways of reaching your communities? (this is more library focused but you may need to answer something similar)
  • Describe your most significant success and your biggest failure in the past 2 years. What did you learn from these experiences?
  • Describe your community-based outreach experience.
  • What project or activity have you worked on in the past year(s) that inspired your passion for the field?
  • Describe your most distressing customer service situation. What would you do differently?
  • What makes you stand out from others?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a client or vendor? How?

If the position is heavily focused on technology, be prepared for questions related to that specifically and how you have used said technology in the past, etc. You can use similar technology as an example of how you are able to acquire necessary technical skills – “I don’t have much experience with [x] database/software, but I was able to learn [y] during my internship.” A skills-based “deficiency” is easily remedied.

REMEMBER: never badmouth a former team member, job, supervisor, school, etc.

Interviews: Before and After

As a recently graduated (and subsequently hired!) information science student, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and resources that I found most useful in my job search. If you have any advice you’d like to share based on your job search, please post it in the comments!

-Preparing for an Interview:

  • Research not only the position and the department the position is in, but also the institution as a whole. This will likely come up (“Why do you want to work for this institution?”) and helps you develop questions for the interviewers (because they will ask).
  • Download or copy and paste the job description into a document you can save. There can be a time lag between sending a cover letter and getting an interview, and you want to refresh your memory about the specific position before you interview.
  • Prepare a soundbite or elevator speech on who you are, your skill set, and why they should hire you. A one minute soundbite on you should focus on your top five skills, experiences, etc. and can act as a very effective set of bookends for your interview. I prepared an elevator speech that I used both to introduce myself and recap why I was a good fit at the end of the interview – and if you start to flounder or lose focus at any time during the interview, remembering the points in this soundbite can help you get back on track.
  • In general you want to dress conservatively and one step above how people in the department where you are interviewing dress. Be aware of any messages your jewelry, makeup, nails, etc. might send (a religious necklace, for instance, might communicate more about your beliefs than you realize). As long as you are aware of any possible messages, however, don’t let it inhibit you. I have a lip piercing, and I made the conscious decision to not remove it for interviews – it’s an aspect of my appearance that I really enjoy and I didn’t want to work someplace that would not allow me to wear it.

-Virtual Interviews:
For Skype interviews (and to a lesser extent, phone) make sure that you:

  • have a professional screenname (mine is first.lastname)
  • test the technology ahead of time (do you remember your password, does your laptop’s microphone work, etc.)
  • ensure that you have a neutral/professional background behind you (a blank wall or something similar – set this up ahead of time, and take a picture of yourself with your laptop’s camera to make sure no piles of stuff, etc. show up in the background)
  • set up a quiet environment (for me, this meant closing my cats in another room so that no meowing or cats trying to climb onto my lap interrupted the interview)
  • plug your laptop into a wall outlet (you don’t want to rely on battery power)
  • figure out how to take notes during the interview (if you type, they’ll hear the keys clicking so you probably want to have a pen and paper handy)
  • finally – write down people’s names!! (you will need this information to send thank you notes, and it’s easy to forget if you don’t record it)

After the Interview:
Send a thank you note within 24 hours (if you send a note via snail mail, send them an email within 24 hours as well thanking them and letting them know a handwritten note is on the way). Mention the interviewer(s) by name and thank them for their time. This is your opportunity to clear up any questions that you feel you could have answered better, as well as emphasize why you believe you are a good fit for the position.

Hopefully these suggestions are helpful for you; if you have other tips or any questions, post in the comments!

Up next: Common Interview Questions

VRA Foundation Internship Awards

The Visual Resources Association Foundation Internship Awards provide financial support for graduate students preparing for a career in visual resources and image management. The award grants $3,000 to support a period of internship in archives, libraries, museums, visual resources departments of academic institutions, or other appropriate locations.

The award recipient will be responsible for selecting the institution at which he or she will complete the internship. To help potential interns find opportunities in their geographic area, VREPS maintains a list of host institutions that offer internships in visual resources and image management. Please note that internship award recipients may also choose to do their internship someplace not on the list (so long as it is approved by the VRA Foundation). In other words, the host site for an internship is not limited to the institutions on the list.

Although designed with the VRA Foundation Internship Awards in mind, the list of host sites may be a resource to anyone seeking professional development opportunities. We hope it will help those new to the field of visual resources advance to the next step in their careers.

Stay tuned to the VRA Foundation website for updates about the 2014-2015 Internship Awards.

Internships in Visual Resources and Image Management – host sites list

Digital Image Resources

Written by Molly Schoen

80,000 digital images make for a sizeable collection. That’s how many we’ve got where I work, at the Visual Resources Collections at the University of Michigan. And while we try to cover the images needed for every class within our department (History of Art), there are bound to be gaps. It’s an impossible expectation for any singular image collection to have everything.

Students and faculty alike are often flummoxed by the process of finding digital images. Undergraduates tend to be more prone to using sites such as Google Images, Flickr, and Wikimedia; these may be fine for quick reference, but not for searching for high quality images with accurate colors and trustworthy metadata. The problem with these websites is that anyone can edit or upload images, so there’s no stake in the accuracy of the works they represent.

So, to help students, professors, and other art history buffs find the images they need, we provide handouts of online sources for digital images. The handout includes restricted access sites, where one typically needs an email address from a subscribing institution to enter, as well as sites freely available to the public. Additionally, as more and more museums are offering high resolution images on their websites, I’ve also started building a list of individual institutions that have searchable online collections.

New digitization projects seem to sprout up all the time—this year has seen the advent of the Google Art Project and the Digital Public Library of America, among others—so this list is never finite. If I’ve missed any good sources, leave a comment below!

handout revised vreps

Restricted Access Collections

University of Michigan, MImage Collections

History of Art Collection

The University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL) MImage Collections is composed of various image collections from across the UM campus. With over 500,000 available images, the Collections are divided into different subject areas, with cross-collection searching also possible.

The History of Art collection is searchable by the faculty who have requested or submitted images (search for the professor’s uniqname to view results). It also contains images from other relevant digital image collections in the UM community, including the University of Michigan Art Museum.


ARTstor is a digital library with over one million images of architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, and decorative arts from across nearly all cultures and time periods. The digital library is composed of images from museums, private collections, individual photographers, special collections, and photo archives. New image             collections are added to ARTstor frequently. ARTstor is a good source for both canonical works and rare images.

CAMIO – Catalog of Art Museum Images Online:

CAMIO provides access to digital images of works from prominent museums in the US, Canada, and UK.  CAMIO              is built from museum photography and is not a comprehensive representation of a museum’s holdings. Strengths are in photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings.

Oxford Art Online:

The majority of articles in Oxford Art Online (formerly Grove Dictionary of Art Online) include links to relevant images. Image sizes can sometimes be small.

Bridgeman Education:

Bridgeman Education provides access to over 370,000 images from museums, galleries, private collections, and contemporary artists. Users can browse by movement, period, school, as well as subject matter: graphic design,                 conceptual themes, fashion, etc.

Open Access Websites

Google Art Project:

A collaboration between Google and over 150 partner institutions from 40 countries, the Google Art Project       provides a comprehensive catalog of high-quality images of art. From architecture to sculpture to painting to printed works, the 30,000 images represent nearly all time periods and cultures from the history of art. GAP also includes many interactive features, such as the ability to maintain your own image portfolios. This is a more                reliable alterative to Google Images.

University of Michigan Fine Arts Library:

Various art-related research guides compiled by the Fine Arts library.

Mother of All Art and Art History Pages:
Compiled by the UM School of Art & Design, this is an extensive directory of links related to all things art- and art history-related. In addition to its vast array of research sources, this site also includes a directory of art colleges, associations, museums, and other institutions, making it a great resource for anyone working in the arts.

Jaconde: Portail des Collections des Musées de France:

A composite database of object collections in French museums, Jaconde contains over 500,000+ records, and more than 275,000 accompanying digital images. It also contains separate collections for archaeology and ethnology.


Europeana is a portal to cross search 1,500 European cultural collections—museums, libraries, archives, and other institutions.  Users can limit search results to images only and can also review results in timeline or map formats.


Artcyclopedia.com functions as an online database for over 2,000 art-related websites.  Users are provided with lists of links for individual artists, art movements, subject matter, etc.  Links vary widely from museum collections to commercial art poster websites.

Web Gallery of Art:

Web Gallery of Art is collection of approximately 20,000 images focusing on European painting and sculpture from the 12th-mid 19th centuries. Image sizes can sometimes be small.


Resulting from the California State University IMAGE project, the WorldImages database contains approximately 100,000 images. The images include artistic works and monuments from throughout the world and other highly useful didactic material. The images are arranged by subject for easy browsing, as well as grouped into helpful portfolios for teaching survey classes.

Digital Public Library of America:

Launched in April 3013, the DPLA is an aggregate of online collections from leading museums and libraries nationwide. It features thousands of art images.


Art Museum Websites

The following institutions offer extensive collections of digital images on their websites. Some even provide downloads of high resolution images. Rights and reproduction permissions will vary from museum to museum.

The Rijksmuseum, Netherlands (313,000+ images)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (260,000+ images)

Harvard Art Museums (250,000+ images)

Yale University Art Gallery (127,000+ images)

The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (25,000+ images)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (20,000+ images)

The Getty, Los Angeles (4,600+ images)

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Northeast Document Conservation Center

Photo Credit: magro_kr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: magro_kr via Compfight cc

The Northeast Document Conservation Center offers a number of in-person workshops and online webinars on a range of preservation topics. For those of you who live near Andover, MA, workshops cost $155 ($135 Early-bird rate). For the rest of us who can’t make it to the Northeast, the NDCC offers webinars at a cost of $100 ($85 Early-bird rate).

Upcoming webinars that might be of particular interest to visual resources professionals are:

COLLECTIONS CARE: Care and Handling of Multimedia Materials
26 March 2013
When: 2-4 PM ET
Where: Live Online
Instructor: Jessica Bitely, Preservation Specialist, NEDCC
Digitizing Bound Volumes
2 May 2013
When: 9 AM – 3 PM ET
Where: NEDCC – Andover, MA
Intermediate to Advanced
Instructors: Bill Donovan, Digital Imaging and Curation Manager and Betsy McKelvey, Head, Digital Library Programs, O’Neill Library, Boston College
Preserving Personal Digital Collections
7 May 2013
When: 2-4 PM ET
Where: Live Online
Instructor: Jessica Bitely, Preservation Specialist, NEDCC

Visit the NDCC’s Training Center page to register or to find other workshops or seminars that might be useful to you. Can’t squeeze a webinar into your schedule, check out other sources for preservation information on the NDCC’s resources pages.

Coursera: free online courses from top institutions

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Coursera is a free massive open online course (MOOC) system. This means that you can take online courses from top professors at all over the country. Coursera is a great supplement to traditional professional development. It’s free, doesn’t take more than access to the internet, and can fit into the schedule of a student or full-time worker. You can watch lectures at your own pace, test what you’ve learned and interact with a global community of hundreds of other students. The subjects range widely from computer science to art history. Some upcoming courses that might be of interest to VRA professionals are:

Metadata:   September 2013 – taught by Jeffrey Pomerantz of  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers: October 2013 – taught by Jeannene Przyblyski of California Institute of the Arts

Comic Books and Graphic Novels: TBD – taught by William Kuskin of the University of Colorado Boulder

Learning to Program, Crafting Quality Code: March 25, 2013 – taught byJennifer Campbell and Paul Gries of theUniversity of Toronto

What is Visual Literacy?

Visual literacy is a core value of our profession. It refers to the set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Without visual literacy we couldn’t find meaning in images or create images that effectively communication meaning. In short, visual literacy is at the very center of today’s visual and media rich world. Those involved in the visual resource and information professions have long understood the importance of visual literacy and have a duty to ensure that visual literacy is clear to those we service and work with. Educate yourself about what visual literacy is and how our users can expand their visual literacy and thereby effectively use images.

A women's art class with instructor William Merritt Chase. Photographed by either Joseph Byron or his son Percy Claude. (Archives of American Art)
A women’s art class with instructor William Merritt Chase. Photographed by either Joseph Byron or his son Percy Claude. (Archives of American Art)

A visually literate individual is able to:

• Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
• Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
• Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
• Evaluate images and their sources
• Use images and visual media effectively
• Design and create meaningful images and visual media
• Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically

Further Reading 

ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

International Visual Literacy Association

Visual Literacy Toolbox

Visual Literacy E-Learning

Visual Literacy K-8