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Friday, March 26 • 10:00am - 11:00am
VRCs in the Digital Humanities Realm

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In the last two decades the role of the Visual Resources/Media Center has changed considerably. Several centers have been closed, and others have moved from departments to a central location such as the library or information resources. The irony in these changes is that visual resources professionals and the work they have been doing for the last two decades can now be employed in interpretive endeavors in addition to the collecting and delivery functions that have been their hallmark since the days of slides. This session will feature digital art history/digital humanities projects supported and guided by visual resources professionals. From the creation of digital exhibitions to timelines to maps to more sophisticated image and data analysis, VRA members are an integral source of support in these endeavors.    

Presenter 1: Catherine Adams, "In want of a dataset: Text Analysis and the VRC" Like many similar facilities, the Visual Resources Centre (VRC) at Penn State has been diversifying its mission as part of a Department of Art History. While the VRC staff and several graduate students have been actively exploring Digital Art History, the majority of faculty have not shown an interest in it. The field of art history also is lacking in one thing essential to most digital humanities projects: readily available datasets. In the Summer of 2019, the VRC started exploring the creation of a dataset compiled from the department’s list of awarded master’s and PhD theses but found it limiting. In Fall 2019, this problem was solved when the department head expressed an interest in creating a dataset from the CAA published listings of awarded PhDs. This much larger dataset could then be used in various text analysis projects. This paper will briefly explore the creation of the dataset, several text analysis tools, and questions for the future.

Presenter 2: Steve Tatum, “Exhibiting a Slide Collection: The Life and Career of Leonard J. Currie, FAIA” Leonard Currie headed the Virginia Tech architecture program, in Blacksburg, Virginia, from 1956 to 1962, where he was a seminal figure. After Currie’s death in 1996, his daughter left his slide collection with the Virginia Tech Art and Architecture Library, where Steve Tatum began scanning and cataloging it about ten years ago. The collection comprises 13,000 original slides chronicling Currie’s career in remarkable detail from studying with Gropius and Breuer at Harvard, through heading an Organization of American States program for low-cost housing in Bogotá, heading architecture programs at Virginia Tech and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and then settling into private practice in Blacksburg. Currie documented his slides meticulously throughout his career on the mounts and boxes. Cataloging has always required some research to understand his notations in English and Spanish. During the summer of 2020, Tatum expanded the research to interpret Currie’s career for a year-long exhibition in the Art and Architecture Library as well as a more thorough account published in WordPress.

Presenter 3: Tess Colwell, Catherine DeRose, and Lindsay King "Reimagining Yale's Visual Resource Collection using PixPlot" Yale University’s Arts Library Digital Services (ALDS) manages collections of legacy images related to global art, architecture, and material culture to support teaching and research in the arts and humanities. These images, which form the basis of Yale’s Visual Resources Collection, consist of more than 370,000 digital images items comprised of lantern slides, 35mm slides, and photographs. The collection contains a range of descriptive metadata, from comprehensive and detailed item-level information to minimal or no descriptive metadata. As the need and demand for a VRC slide library has evolved over the last decade, the ALDS staff have continued seeking new ways to make the materials more meaningful to students and faculty at Yale. In early 2020, ALDS staff submitted a Rapid Prototyping Grant with Yale’s Digital Humanities Lab to develop a humanities application utilizing the 370,000 images and metadata. Rapid Prototyping Grants support focused design and development interventions to help innovative digital humanities projects get started or to add a new feature to existing projects. During the grant period, the project team built a prototype of the platform PixPlot, using a sample of images and metadata from the VRC materials. This project aims to view the VRC images in PixPlot, where students can engage and interpret the images and metadata in new ways and at new scales, while also providing a broader perspective of pedagogical practices in Yale’s History of Art Department over the last 60 years. This collection of images is valuable mainly as a collection that has accumulated and grown over time. What can we learn about the collection by viewing it at scale? What can we learn about VRC collections across institutions? This type of work has not been done in the visual resources community, and we believe having a platform for other institutions to contribute or analyze VRC materials would provide a meaningful contribution to the field. This presentation will include context and background information, a demo of the prototype, and a discussion on next steps and what we can learn based on the project’s findings.

Endorsed by the Education Committee.

avatar for Carolyn Lucarelli

Carolyn Lucarelli

Visual Resources Curator, Penn State University
Carolyn Lucarelli has worked as a visual resources curator in the Department of Art History Visual Resources Centre (VRC) at Penn State University since 1998. Before coming to Penn State, she was assistant museum librarian in the Photograph and Slide Library at The Metropolitan Museum... Read More →


Steve Tatum

Digital Collections and Art Curator, Virginia Tech
I develop digital image collections focusing on art and architecture.
avatar for Catherine Adams

Catherine Adams

Digital Support Specialist, Center for Material and Virtual Studies, Penn State University

Tess Colwell

Arts Librarian for Research Services, Yale University
avatar for Catherine Derose

Catherine Derose

Program Manager, Digital Humanities Lab, Yale University Library
avatar for Lindsay King (she/her)

Lindsay King (she/her)

Associate Director for Access and Research Services, Haas Arts Library, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University

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Owner, vrcHost LLC
vrcHost specializes in installation, integration, customization, and feature development for the Madison Digital Image Database (MDID) project - an open source digital content management system used at hundreds of institutions worldwide for teaching and scholarship in the visual arts... Read More →

Friday March 26, 2021 10:00am - 11:00am CDT
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