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!
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
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)
Lyrasis Topic: Digital Collection Policy Development and Content Selection/Prioritization – Two-hour online class When: March 8, 2019 Register Here
Lyrasis Topic: Creating Online Exhibits: New Ways to Reach Out, Advocate, and Publicize Your Collections and Services When: March 6, 2019 Register Here
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.
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.
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)
NDSR Art 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
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 also interested in gems and jewelry, so once I left the L.A. Times, I enrolled in the graduate gemologist program at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). After graduating, I worked briefly at a jewelry manufacturer and saw there was an opening for a slide librarian at GIA. I thought I was a good fit, combining my photo and gemology backgrounds. Evidently, GIA thought so too and I was hired. I’ve been at GIA for 23 years and my current title is Manager of Visual Resources. We made the transition from slides to digital images starting in 1999. By 2004, we had a sophisticated digital asset management system in place. At one time, I managed a staff of four, but the department was divided and now I oversee two visual resources staff.
What is your favorite part about your work? Can you describe any project(s) you’re currently working on? Viewing images of spectacular gems and jewelry is always a treat. I also get to see the real deal quite often. I have been asked to write articles recently and I enjoy researching and finding images through various sources to accompany them. I’ve written a lengthier article about a prominent Beverly Hills jeweler (yet to be published) which involved a lot of research and interviews. That was fun.
What does a typical work day look like for you? I go through email messages to see if there are any requests that have come in for image research or licensing. I either take care of them myself or delegate to another staff member. Part of my duties involves spending time on the reference desk of the GIA library. We’re a closed stack library so I help students with book recommendations and checkout. I also answer reference questions related to gems and jewelry from the jewelry trade and the public. After my reference duties, I work on short articles for a web-based pilot project for GIA alumni.
What were some challenges you came across when you first started out in the field of visual resources? A big challenge for me when I first started as a slide librarian at GIA was trying to keep up with all the work involved as a one-person department. I was able to get work-study students to help out for a while and then slowly added more staff as the workload and demands grew.
What skills do you use for your job that you didn’t learn while in school? Managing staff. I’ve been in managerial positions for the greater part of my working career and it’s never been my favorite part of the job. I never wanted to be in management, but I always end up in that position.
Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of? I’m proud of being part of the planning stages of our DAM system (a two-year organization-wide effort) and building it up and gaining user acceptance. I’m also proud of obtaining a professional certificate in intellectual property which involved 215 hours of instruction through UCSD’s extension program.
What is something that most excites you about the field of visual resources? The variety of photographic resources that are available online now. It’s great to see so much available now that wasn’t accessible just a few years ago.
Where else do you seek professional development opportunities other than VRA? Jewelry history conference and antique jewelry trade shows.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position and how you got into the field of visual resources? Be sure to find a job that is related to interests you’re passionate about, or at least enjoy. There may be parts of the job you don’t enjoy, but if the subject matter interests you, then it makes it a lot easier to do the job. Also, find an organization, company or school that you admire and would be happy to work at.
What are some of your favorite things outside of work? What are some of your hobbies? Movies, theater, art, food and wine, my dog
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!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position and how you got into the field of visual resources?
My work in visual resources began at the New-York Historical Society in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections while I was in graduate school. I had thought I would become a Public Librarian but my interest in visual materials was piqued by that experience. After grad school, I went on to work as a Photo Archivist at the Rockefeller Archives Center for a few years before I accepted my current position with the City of Seattle in the Seattle Municipal Archives (SMA). I was brought on in 2005 to develop and implement a program to begin collecting the growing amounts of digital material being created in the field as well as manage the physical material on-site in our vault. The Digital Image Management program has brought in approximately 250,000 image files since 2006.
What is your favorite part of your work? Can you describe any project(s) you’re currently working on? Aside from the very interesting visual material that I interact with daily, my favorite part of my work is engaging with the community of users that reach out for reference assistance. Also, the Seattle Municipal Archives is partnered with HistoryLink to produce a book to commemorate the 150th year of Seattle’s incorporation. The book will feature 150 items from the archives that represents each year. Digging through our unprocessed material, searching for our older and lessor known objects has been a lot of fun!
What does a typical work day look like for you? My day usually begins with reference questions or following up on a request from the day before. We have a robust volunteer program and I oversee several projects so I usually check in with those students/interns and make sure they are on track. Several times a year I provide training to City employees on their roles and responsibilities to public records and how to use the Digital Image Management Program, so a good amount of time is spent developing training modules and presenting at meetings. If I’m not doing any of the above, I can be found processing digital image file submissions or performing quality control on the work our volunteers have done. I also play a lead role in the disaster preparedness program for our archive, so a good deal of time goes into writing and revising our plans.
What were some challenges you came across when you first started out in the field of visual resources? Probably the biggest challenge, when I was starting out, was how tiny the field was. I’m not an art librarian and I wasn’t interested in working in a corporate archive or a non-profit, so finding work as a photo archivist in the public sector seemed like a tall order. I took internships and part-time jobs in the field and was lucky enough to be on the East coast where heritage institutions are abundant. Once I had some experience, I was clear on where I was headed and stayed on top of the job openings. I also had the benefit of not being tied to a particular part of the country, so when this job opened up I went for it.
What skills do you use for your job that you didn’t learn while in school? So many. When I was in graduate school there wasn’t an Archives program, per se. I think I had one class that was specifically about archives and archival theory. With the exception of cataloging, indexing, and reference interviews pretty much all of my archival workflow skills were learned on the job.
Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of? The success of the Digital Image Management program here at the Seattle Municipal Archives is my greatest professional accomplishment so far. I was able to write legislation (that passed!) to establish the program and its directives. I was able to gain buy-in from my supervisor who allowed me to run with my vision to build an online portal for employees to submit their photos right from their desktops. I now take in roughly 10,000 digital image files per year and after processing them make them available to the global public on our digital platform. I don’t think there is another program like this in the country (at least not that I’m aware of) so I hope it will one day serve as a model program for other municipalities.
What is one thing in the visual resources field that you think is lacking or missing? There aren’t a lot of government records Photo Archivist’s out there so I’m excited to be part of VRA now as I wasn’t able to find my niche in other, larger associations. SMA has a robust program with 5 archivists, so I’m not a “lone arranger” but I am the only one doing my work. That can be challenging at times but I’m fortunate to work with a great team. As a relatively new member of VRA, I’m hopeful that I will cross paths with other archivists who may have some parallels with the work that I do and that with my experience I will be able to help younger photo archivists develop their programs.
What is something that most excites you about the field of visual resources? I get excited about this field when I see all of the ways in which our materials are used on social media sites and in documentaries. I’m also excited about newer areas like geospatial mapping or hyper-spectral photography. The ways in which humans document their surroundings and experiences is ever-changing, so I look forward to seeing how those changes will be reflected in the ways those records are kept and preserved.
What other professional organizations are you a part of? Currently, my involvement professionally has been largely regarding disaster planning and recovery. Last year I participated in Heritage Responders training through the FAIC. This training equipped participants with the skills to respond to emergency situations in cultural centers, museums, libraries, special collections, archives, and historic sites. I am currently involved with a local group called Seattle Heritage Emergency Response Network, which is a mutual aid network comprised of 20 heritage institutions in the Seattle area.
Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for emerging professionals and students in this field? Most of us work within some kind of large bureaucracy whether it’s a university or as in my case, a large municipality. In those environments, visual resources programs are often not very high profile (or lack funding). My advice is, try to remember that you are serving the greater good. The work that we as records keepers do is good work and we work all over the world in service to humanity. There are only a handful of professions that can make that claim.
What are some of your favorite things outside of work? What are some of your hobbies? I’m a creative and active person. Some of my favorite things are crocheting, cooking, and cycling. I love being active with my daughter, husband, and our two dogs. We go for long urban hikes, go camping in the summer, and are generally happy to be taking in the gorgeous surroundings of the Pacific Northwest.
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; arefillable water bottle; anexternal 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* 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.