Libraries Society of
Session XXII :
Building New Paradigms: Image Collections, New Perspectives, and New Realities
Tues. April 20 -12
Webster, Director, Knight Visual Resources Facility,
Whiteside, Director, Fiske Kimball Fine Arts library,
Temos, Acting Director, Educational
Carmen Wiedenhoeft, Saskia, Ltd., Fostering Relationships In and Outside of Your Institution to Support Your Digital Image Collections
Jacoby, Director, Visual Resources Collection,
Gates, Slide Librarian, Art Institute of
Trudy Jacoby introduced the session and panelists by pointing out that with the advent of digital technology, image repositories are no longer limited to a single physical presence on campus (or in a museum). This fact provides opportunities to think about issues in new ways as we look at establishing new working relationships both within our own institutions and on a national level. Visual Resources Professionals no longer go to the library just to find sources for copy photography. As libraries and faculty get involved in the use of digital images, many people have found benefit in developing new relationships that optimize development of our resources.
Some issues that the panelists were asked to address included the development of image management systems and image viewing systems, working with evolving national standards for data such as the VRA Core, and building new working relationships both on and off campus.
Margaret Webster spoke about the theory of the Indivisibility of Art Librarianship as it was presciently described by Wolfgang Freitag at the 1982 IFLA conference. This proved to be a challenge which neither art librarians nor visual resources managers were able to accept at the time, since the visual resources profession was relatively new and inexperienced; tensions existed between collections under library administration and departmental administration; and the primary role of the visual resource collection was perceived to be providing curricular support for teaching art history.
In the 1990s,
Cornell saw the merger of the two campus slide collections into a one that
served the entire university community. The university mandated a restructuring
These collaborations were made possible by the development of commonly agreed upon data standards such as the Getty vocabularies, CDWA, and the CCO; by earlier attempts at resource sharing like MESL; by the ubiquitous use of the Internet and digital images; and by the rapid development of technology.
Margaret revisited the notion of the Indivisibility of Art Librarianship by noting that now collection development occurs at an institutional level and involves licensing as well as production. Visual resources professionals are becoming collection managers as opposed to collection producers. Images are used by a larger and often invisible audience representing many disciplines. The development of a successful visual resources collection involves the development of new paradigms and collaborative relationships with a variety of professionals within the institution. Margaret posited the question “Is there a future for a visual resources collection administered outside of the library?”
Ann Whiteside addressed the idea of the “complete” art library. She noted that Wolfgang Frietag’s original paper, which was published in the Art libraries Journal, is being reinterpreted by Martha Mahard in an article that will appear in the Fall, 2003 issue of Art Documentation. Ann questioned whether we have yet achieved a unified community of art information professionals, since there are still barriers to making it a reality. These include campus departmental divisions; the high cost of resources sharing, both human and financial; administration and staff structures; complacency; territoriality; and cultural differences.
The Fine Arts
Library at the
Janet Temos described
One of the biggest problems facing those incorporating several digital management systems is interoperability.
Carmen Wiedenhoeft provided perspective as an image provider or vendor. Like the other panelists, she emphasized the need for building relationships inside and outside an institution during the process of building digital image collections. There are many places where Saskia is now licensing images that clearly demonstrate how cooperation among different branches on a campus has been initiated, or is becoming more successful, as a result of setting up digital image repositories. She cited the difficulty at larger institutions where departments have separate, smaller budgets. By necessity, the university library may end up licensing digital images, but departments relinquish involvement if they refuse or are unable to collaborate.
Saskia’s philosophy toward building sound relationships for providing digital images involves perpetual licensing and high quality support as a vendor, combined with broader and, if possible, entire institutional support on the part of the image users.
Carmen outlined some factors that have affected the changing relationship between image providers and licensees: coordination in providing service, changes in supplying image data, institutional coalition building, insistence on quality, funding issues, need for visual literacy, diversification of the accepted art canon, “paralysis through analysis” in building digital collaboratives, and the disappearance of image collections entirely in some cases.
Carmen reminded us that in the 1960s, objections were heard, often from museums, over teaching with color slides. With the use of digital images, we have come full circle: the same objections can be heard again.
Finally, what seems obvious is that to continue supplying high quality and easily-accessible images for teaching, the visual resources profession must deepen and share its resources: we must continue to build new relationships, which unfortunately, takes money.