Advice, Articles, & Toolkits

Endangered Data Week is a collaborative effort coordinated across campuses, nonprofits, libraries, citizen science initiatives, and cultural heritage institutions, to shed light on public datasets that are in danger of being deleted, repressed, mishandled, or lost. Browse their map and list of events that are happening!

10 Myths about Canadian Copyright Law via Copyrightlaws.com

Reflections on PASIG 2019: Advancing Digital Preservation Through Community Cultivation by Oya Y. Rieger [The Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG)]

Do’s and Don’t’s of Job Talks – a Twitter thread by Liz Bucar @BucarLiz

Recap: SAA-UW Decolonizing Archives Online Panel via Society of American Archivists – University of Wisconsin

Conferences, Symposiums, Workshops and such…

VRA Bulletin
Call for Content – first-ever open access issue!
Deadline: Friday, March 1st
Learn More & Submit Something

VRA Foundation Regional Workshop
Topic: Metadata and Management of Cultural Heritage Digital Media: From Fundamentals to Future Trends
When: April 26, 2019
Where: The Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler
Register Here

Summer Educational Institute
Where: University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM
When: June 4-7, 2019
Take a look at the 2019 Schedule
Learn More & Register Here

Webinars, Classes, and more

Documentary Heritage & Preservation Services for New York
Topic: Finding Aid Basics
This workshop covers the basics of collection-level finding aids and focuses on content and formatting as governed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), the descriptive standard for archival materials.
Watch Here (free)

Topic: Digital Collection Policy Development and Content Selection/Prioritization – Two-hour online class
When: March 8, 2019
Register Here

Topic: Creating Online Exhibits: New Ways to Reach Out, Advocate, and Publicize Your Collections and Services
When: March 6, 2019
Register Here

Check back next Thursday for more Happenings! Missed a week? Take a look at previous happenings here.


VREPS Interview with Heather Seneff

Heather Seneff

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position and how you got into the field of visual resources?

I was a work-study student as an undergrad at Chatham College in Pittsburgh first assigned to work in the Chemistry Lab but was able to switch with a Chemistry major who was working in the Slide Collection! I was initially an English major but quickly became enamored with Art History (you can actually do this as a living!?–I had no idea!). After graduating from Chatham, I decided to pursue my Masters in Art History at the University of Maryland College Park, where I found work in the Art Slide Collection and then a full-time staff position in the School of Architecture’s Slide Collection with Mrs. Betsy Alley, an exemplar mentor! I worked with her for nearly ten years as an assistant, until a ruthless budget cut for the University (and the whole state) forced our Dean to make most of the staff in Architecture half-time. I sent out my resume and had a phone interview for a position at the Slide Collection in the Department of Art at Arizona State University, which was offered to me and accepted. So I packed up my belongings into my Camaro and drove across the country to Tempe, Arizona! I worked as the assistant to Lise Hawkos (another exemplar mentor–I have had the good fortune to work with very admirable and talented bosses!) for about ten years. It was then that I became involved in our local ARLIS chapter and then VRA.

Visual Media Center at the University of Denver

A position for a Director of the Slide Collection in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning (now the College of the Built Environments) at the University of Washington came up, which I applied for, and received an invitation to visit the UW and interview there. I was offered the position and moved to Seattle! After about ten years (there seems to be a pattern here!) at the University of Washington, my then-husband and I decided to relocate to Colorado so he could pursue a career opportunity; while that did not go well, a position at the University of Denver in their Visual Media Center at the School of Art & Art History opened up. I applied and interviewed and was offered the job! While working at the University of Denver, I pursued an MLIS from Emporia State University, which employs a “hybrid” method of online and on-site classes. There seemed to be some vague intention of folding the Visual Media Center into the library at first when I was first hired and I felt I could be more nimble at DU with the second degree. Luckily that never happened and the Visual Media Center is still at home in the School of Art & Art History!

What is your favorite part of your work? Can you describe any project(s) you’re currently working on?
I would have said database design and cataloging in my position at the University of Washington, where I implemented the MDID and devised a cataloging database in Microsoft Access (then to SQL). However, here at the University of Denver, I inherited a clumsily designed “Learning Object Management System” and an even more clumsy cataloging tool, with an incorrect application of VRA Core, so I don’t get to indulge my database jones here. I did, however, convince the DU library Metadata Initiative Librarian to design a better cataloging tool, a collaborative project between that librarian (who has now gone to Hawaii!), a library programmer, and myself. I presented on the project at VRA 2015, and we published a paper on the “Metadata Management System” (not my choice for a name! especially if you realize its acronym is DUMMS…) in the VRA Bulletin that same year.

The new cataloging database uses linked open data (which was my idea!) to access the vocabularies from the Getty and the Library of Congress. The database itself is based on Dublin Core, can be mapped easily to other systems, and the content can be exported into another program if that becomes necessary (something the old cataloging tool could not do–the designers didn’t think of it). So, I might say that at the University of Denver the most satisfying aspect of my work is writing and publishing. I recently had a chapter in a book on Mid-Century Modern sacred architecture published, which was an amazing experience and very informative about the publishing word! Dr. Anat Geva, an architecture professor at Texas A&M was the book’s editor and it finally came out on my birthday (coincidentally!) of 2018! At DU, I also enjoy working with my graduate student research assistants, of which I have four, more than any in my previous positions (though sometimes I can barely keep ahead of them!). I designed the “Metadata Management System” with them in mind as well, so that they can be trained to catalog with my operations and training manual relatively easily and that the program encourages them to catalog correctly rather than the opposite! But always, the best part of being a visual resources curator is getting to work with art!

What does a typical work day look like for you?
First I always check our two “smart” classrooms (which I guess means they each have a computer and digital projector!), since in the past I have found things like: DU IT “support” having duct-taped an extension cord to the wall, running up to the digital projector, because they couldn’t figure out a breaker had tripped; the $2500 screen in the other room had been ripped from the wall by DU facilities and leaned against the far wall during an extensive plumbing project in the Art Building; connections mangled by professors from other departments; glitter (I kid you not) scattered all over the floor by a sorority using the room after hours; and once a stuffed deer head was left behind; etc. When I first got to DU, there were three digital projectors mounted to the ceiling of each room; it was very satisfying to get them to understand that with digital images, you really only needed one machine to project two images! Also, I replaced the “Screen Goo” paint on the projection wall with real screens. After checking the poor classrooms and making sure everything works, I start checking my students’ work (both scanning and cataloging), uploading records to the “Learning Object Management System” that the faculty use to teach in class, cataloging and scanning things myself, and assigning new projects to the students. I use a whiteboard to keep track of what we are working on so the six of us don’t duplicate effort or get hopelessly confused on what stage of an assignment we are on.

The faculty bring me books and other print material to add to the collection on some days; other days they will e-mail me lists or new additions we should make. Our newest art historian is an Islamicist, so we have added loads of Islamic images for her, a steep learning curve for most of the graduate students. My (relatively) new half-time assistant and I do the bulk of that cataloging, with one stellar grad student. In my manual (which is in Wiki form on the internet and also in booklet form) I keep a series of pages on “Cataloging Non-Western and Difficult Things,” which assists the students (and myself!) with the extreme diversity of material we have to catalog. At any point during the day some troubleshooting is needed in the classrooms (always an emergency), or a dongle is needed for a Mac, or some image permissions questions crop up, or a professor needs a special image for a publication or presentation, or someone can’t make the public printer in the building print correctly.

What were some challenges you came across when you first started out in the field of visual resources?
The reluctance of some faculty to embrace the digital world was a challenge at the University of Maryland and then at Arizona State University. But that also made it an exciting time, when we were learning as curators to use technology and design systems that could be so productive in the teaching of art and art history. At ASU, Lise arranged for me to take training in Microsoft Access, which I just loved. We were still relying on copystands and film photography in those days and the hot, hot lights of the copystand and tediousness of it was a challenge to me, but I persevered and learned a lot about film and the process of photography. I occasionally used a copystand set up at the University of Washington (for a few of our senior faculty still wedded to slides), but so rarely that it wasn’t onerous. I quickly and happily embraced the flatbed scanners and the Nikon SuperCoolScan. Our faculty at DU are more digitally savvy now but I still continuously struggle with their inability to tell quality images from poor ones, good image sources from disreputable ones, and the complexity of intellectual property rights for images in the digital age.

What skills do you use for your job that you didn’t learn while in school?
All of it! I never learned photography at school or cataloging or web design or Photoshop–it was all learned in situ! There were no programs that taught people to be VR curators or how to use images in the classroom.

Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
My successful implementation of the MDID at the University of Washington, my designing of the SQL cataloging system there, my designing of the “DUMMS” in collaboration with the library at the University of Denver, my publications (including my most recent on intellectual property rights and New Media), my mentoring of students who go on to success in their own careers (in VR and in museum studies, and collection management, etc.).

What is one thing in the visual resources field that you think is lacking or missing?
Respect from our colleagues in the library world, the IT world, the classroom design world.

What is something that most excites you about the field of visual resources?
Images! Art! The annual VRA conference!

What other professional organizations are you a part of?
I belong to ARLIS also, but mostly out of a feeling of obligation. VRA is really the only organization that provides the materials and support and collegiality I need.

Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for emerging professionals and students in this field?
Be open minded! Embrace new systems and technologies when they can make teaching and learning about art more successful! Be nimble! Be rigorous catalogers (metadata technicians!) because just like a 35mm slide misfiled was lost forever, a poorly identified image will never be discovered either.

👋 Say hi to Heather at VRA 2019 in Los Angeles!

Feeling a bit overwhelmed or suffering from imposter syndrome in the Visual Resources field? Sign up to be a mentee in the VRA’s Year-round Mentorship Program! Learn more: http://vraweb.org/opportunities/mentorship/ or connect with other VREPS on Slack!


Awards, Fellowships and $$$

VRAF Professional Development Grant
Deadline: Friday, February 22, 2019 – Two Grants Available!
Apply Here – VRA Membership NOT required!

Advice, Articles, & Toolkits

6 Best Practices for Legally using Google Images by Copyrightlaws.com

ARLIS/NA Diversity Forum Panelist: Jennifer Ferretti via The Art of Diversity

CFPs, Conferences, Symposiums, and such…

PressED is a conference looking into how WordPress is used in teaching, pedagogy, and research. The conference happens solely on Twitter at #pressedconf18!
When: April 18, 2019, from 4:00am-4:00pm EST
Call for Submissions Here

VRAF Regional Workshops
Topic: Exhibit, Instruct, Promote, Collaborate: An Introduction to Omeka for Digital Scholarship
Instructor: Susan Jane Williams
Hosted by The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
March 1, 2019

Topic: Metadata and Management of Cultural Heritage Digital Media: From Fundamentals to Future Trends
Instructor: Shyam Oberoi
Hosted by The Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler
April 26, 2019

Webinars, Podcasts, and more

Documentary Heritage & Preservation Services for New York
Topic: Metadata Matters
What is metadata? And why does it matter? This webinar will answer these questions and more! Intended to help those just getting started with metadata, topics covered will include best practices for item- and collection-level metadata, file naming, and systems for capturing metadata. Dublin Core and Encoded Archival Description (EAD) will also be addressed.
When: Thursday, February 28, 2019
Register Here (free)

Topic: Archiving Performance in an Institutional Context: Perspectives from the Mark Morris Dance Group
When: February 28, 2019 at 11:00am EST
Learn More & Register Here

Check back next Thursday for more Happenings! Missed a week? Take a look at previous happenings here.


Advice, Articles, & Tools

A list of videos, databases, books, links, legislation, and publications for collection specialists and related professionals compiled by the Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists (ARCS)

Guidelines for the use of copyrighted materials and works of art by art museums compiled by the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Is it possible to decolonize the Commons? An interview with Jane Anderson of Local Contexts.

CFPs, Conferences, Symposiums, and such…

2019 Digital Initiatives Symposium
This day-and-a-half conference focuses on the digital elements of library ecosystems and features workshops and user group meetings for a variety of institutional repository platforms.
Where: San Diego, California
When: April 29-30, 2019
Learn More & Register

Archiving 2019
Discuss and learn about the most pressing issues in the cultural heritage landscape.
Where: Lisbon, Portugal
When: May 14-17
Learn More

Call for Papers: Art Documentation
(Semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America)
Deadline: March 1, 2019
Learn More & Submit

Helen Pond McIntyre ‘48 Lecture: Archiving in the Future Perfect Tense
Speaker: Avery Gordon
Where: NYC
When: Monday, February 25, 2019, at 6:30pm
Learn More + Register Here

Webinars, Podcasts, and more

Documentary Heritage & Preservation Network for New York
Topic: Digital Preservation for Small Repositories
This webinar focuses on simple, practical first steps small repositories can take toward digital preservation and points you to a wide array of helpful resources. Watch Here (free)

ACRL Webinar
Topic: Introduction to Augmented Reality for and by Librarians
When: April 4, 2019, starting at 11:00 am CST
Register Here (free)

Library 2.019 mini-conference – SJSU
Topic: Shaping the Future of Libraries with Instructional Design
When: March 13, 2019 from 12:00pm – 3:00 pm PST
Learn More & Register Here (free)

Awards, Fellowships and $$$

VRAF Professional Development Grant
Deadline: Friday, February 22, 2019 – Two Grants Available!
Apply Here – VRA Membership NOT required!

Check back next Thursday for more Happenings! Missed a week? Take a look at previous happenings here.

VRA Conference Guide + Tips

Headed to Los Angeles for #VRA2019? Below is your guide to before, during and after the VRA conference. We’ve also included some conference tips!

Before the Conference:

  • Register and don’t forget to add any tours or workshops to your schedule! Taking a Tour is a great way to get out of the hotel & meet other members while sightseeing! Attending any of the VRA Workshops will give you the opportunity to learn and discuss innovative topics, sometimes with a hands-on or interactive experience.
  • Pair up with a VRA Conference Mentor! Conference mentors will contact you ahead of the conference and make arrangements to meet you for coffee or lunch, etc. on the first or second day of the conference. Mentors will share tips for enhancing your conference experience and introduce you to other members to help you build your own network within VRA.
  • Download the Sched App on your smartphone or device to download the conference schedule. If you’d like to print your sched, click on the Print icon.
  • *Tip* Don’t forget to pack a sweater – conference rooms tend to be chilly; a refillable water bottle; an external charger for your phone – it’s no fun to sit by a wall or search for an outlet to charge your phone!

During the Conference:

  • *Tip* Remember to drink plenty of water and bring snacks to keep your energy up throughout the day and tie you over between meals. There will be coffee breaks and water will also be provided during the conference.
  • Meetup Lunch for New Members, 1st/2nd Time Attendees, VREPS, Mentors/Mentees, and Reviewers/Reviewees – If you haven’t received an RSVP please reach out to VREPS Co-Chair, Kendra Werst, knw2[AT]williams.edu
  • *Tip* Don’t be shy! Remember that some people are potentially out of their comfort zone and would welcome you joining their conversation or saying hi.
  • *Tip* Remember that you are a human and you need breaks! Conferences can be overwhelming with all the information and people so make time for decompressing! Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon or night. Also, make sure you go outside for fresh air once and a while.

After the Conference:

  • Follow up with new contacts via LinkedIn, Email, or even Twitter to grow your personal network. Reach out and say “Hey, it was great meeting you at VRA2019!” Check out the VRA’s Membership Directory.
  • While all those great ideas and experiences are fresh in your mind, transcribe any notes you took and reflect on your time at the conference. Most conference presentation slides will be posted to VRA’s Slide Share afterward.
  • Stay involved! Whether it’s joining VREPS on Slack, volunteering at the next annual conference, following up with your Mentor or joining a VRA committee! *Don’t forget to complete the post-conference survey provided by the VRA.