Nancy S. Allen, Director of Information Resources, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, moderated the first panel session of the Conference, "Art and Architecture Initiatives at RLG." She introduced the four panelists, Jim Coleman, La Vonne F. Gallo, Katherine Chibnik, and Ann Abid, filling in for Murray Waddington, who was originally scheduled to participate but was unable to attend. Susan Malkoff Moon, Head Librarian, Spencer Art Reference Library, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Chair of the Art and Architecture Group, an advisory group to RLG, sponsored the session.
Jim Coleman, Head, Academic Computing for the Humanities, Stanford University, formerly with RLG, where he adeptly served as a liaison to the art library community for many years, was the first speaker. He described a project-model--which is part of the RLG Webdoc Initiative--to digitize a special collection of illustrated books at Stanford University. His presentation, called "A Digital Representation of the Special Collections of Dime Novels/Penny Dreadfuls at Stanford University," included discussion of: 1) material/collection and selection criteria, 2) preservation vs. digitization issues, 3) model digital representation, 4) model technical infrastructures, and 5) broad distribution via Webdoc access. In addition, the audience was taken on a tour of the Dime Novel/Penny Dreadful database.
At the beginning of the project Stanford University's Dime Novel/Penny Dreadfuls collection consisted of about 8,000 items (now there are between 11-12,000 items). The collection was chosen for digitization because of its wide circulation and broad audience during the late nineteenth century, and its excellence as a visual indicator of cultural values and prejudices, in addition to its limited textual content. The collection, on poor paper and in fragile condition was in need of rehousing. The making of experimental, preservation quality digital surrogates was seen as a workable solution to the problem which would lead to a scalable model for digitization.
Jim Coleman stopped in his presentation at this point to show the audience the model-database via a prepared demonstration "connection." There are about 500 bibliographic entries in the database, with at least one image for each bibliographic entry. Subject access to images is through Getty vocabulary, and image items are linked to the cataloging/metadata record. Full text browsing is possible now in HTML, and will soon also be available in SGML. An audience member asked for the name of the underlying database. It is Oracle. Jim Coleman called the database "a work in progress," and expressed the hope that it would be added to by students and classes using the database.
In regard to the "model technical infrastructure," half of the material was digitized off-site and half (the fragile part) onsite. With Stanford University as the host site, providing access and linkages to its collections, in a Webdoc environment, it is expected that broad distribution and promotion of the Dime Novel/Penny Dreadfuls collection at Stanford University will be possible. The model-database which was discussed and demonstrated serves as a window with a view into an exciting prospect for making other collections of visual materials equally, easily accessible and retrievable.
The second panelist was La Vonne Gallo, Instructional Services Manager, RLG. During La Vonne Gallo's interesting presentation, the audience was treated to an overview of the many art-related materials in RLIN, to instruction in using the databases through a prepared demonstration using Eureka, and to a glimpse of RLIN's holdings related to the subject, "New Deal in the Arts."
La Vonne Gallo called our attention to the highlighted/underlined hypertext links in RLIN records on the Web. Links, to other works by an author, to other records on a given subject, to similar titles, or location links to texts or images are all available to varying degrees. Besides the RLIN database, RLG associated databases rich in art-related materials include Dissertation Abstracts, BHA, the Avery Architecture Index, and Francis. Art-related material may also be found in other RLIN associated "non-art" databases.
While Dissertation Abstracts is an obvious source for records for dissertations, additional records for dissertations, both published and not published, which are not in Dissertation Abstracts can often be found in the member-contributed RLIN database. We were reminded that dissertations on art topics were not always produced by art history majors, as in the case of history major Kimn Carlton-Smith's dissertation, "A New Deal for Women: Women Artists and the Federal Art Project, 1935-1939, 1990."
Other art-related material in RLIN and its associated databases includes: analytics of regional titles, found in the RILA database; oral histories in text/transcript or video format, in the Francis database; and review articles and abstracts in BHA. The RLIN database includes unique material, copy-specific records, i.e. particular editions, versions, and reprints an institution may own, whether or not annotated, number of copies, and so on. It also includes small, pamphlet-sized material; material in various languages; records of photographs and other visual objects and links between records and images; archival material, and finding aids.
Katharine Chibnik, Associate Director & Head of Access & Support Services, Columbia University, Avery Library, the third speaker, discussed the use and value of the RLG databases from the perspective of the academic user. She began her engaging presentation -- which was well-received by an appreciative audience -- by referring to the title of a popular British song, "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part II," then enumerated reasons why we might also be cheerful.
RLIN is useful for verification in technical services and reference work, in addition to being useful for art research which goes beyond standard research/reference sources. As an example of technical services verification, she mentioned the difficulty of verifying a volume of a sub-series within a larger series. Begin able to identify a specific volume, for a title such as "Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections, 1985-1991," 4 v. (v. 15, 23, 28, 39) in RLIN is much more useful than not being able to verify a volume in a citation such as "series, etc." where no specific volumes are mentioned. RLIN's inclusion of copy-specific records allows for this type of specific verification. RLIN's inclusion of a wide variety of materials, too, serves as an aid to verification in reference work. After trying to locate an Andy Warhol index using several reference sources, it was finally found as a periodical article in RLIN.
Katharine Chibnik described research as detective work, and said that students are very interested in accessing various library catalogs, and in in accessing primary source materials such as archives and manuscript files. She also expressed the idea, which met with some enthusiastic audience response, that although cataloging standards such as InDoMat for collection level cataloging and others standards were important and good, it was still better to have any record in RLIN than none at all. She said that the goal was to deliver information.
Katharine Chibnik concluded her presentation by citing an example of using RLIN to answer questions which go beyond standard art research/reference sources, in order to answer a question regarding radish sculpture. Searching RLIN and the Citadel files, Anthropology Index and HAPI (Hispanic American Periodicals Index) revealed a citation related to the subject, "Magic for a Cinderella Vegetable."
The last speaker, Ann Abid, Head Librarian, Cleveland Museum of Art, shared reasons for originally joining RLIN, for staying with it, and future prospects. The Cleveland Museum of Art, together with the Metropolitan Museum of Art first joined RLG in 1979 through a grant issued by the Mellon Foundation. They originally joined because of RLIN's superior records, in the mid-1970s, and because access to one's own records was possible. SCIPIO was added to RLIN about 1980, and the Cleveland Museum began to contribute to that database in 1985.
RLIN has initiated and supported a number of programs over the years and continues to do so. Some programs and collaborations include: Shares program (ILL); Preservation program (including recommendations for standards); Digitization workshops; ARIEL (scanned document transmission over the Internet); Studies in Scarlet (legal documents, on the subject of marriage and sex); Marcadia (for retrospective conversion); SGML training (for archivists); and new access to CARL and to DIALOG. RLG and Getty collaboration (BHA on Citadel); membership in CIMI (museum information); Getty partnership in vocabularies; and AMICO (museum site licensing). Other recent RLG developments include increasing international involvement -- the Victoria and Albert Museum is a new member -- and the appointment of Katharine Martinez, RLG, a long-time member of ARLIS, to serve as a liaison to the art community.
Following the four presentations, there was some audience discussion. The moderator, Nancy Allen, noted that with about 70 million records in the RLIN database, there were many reasons to be happy. She also said that it was important not only to be able to locate information in RLIN, but also to be able to deliver information, via ARIEL and email. Also of current interest was the new initiatives in sharing information about art and its surrogates. Nancy concluded the session witthanks to participating panelists and to the audience for joining in the discussion.
Patricia D. Siska
Frick Art Reference Library