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Information Access in the Humanities

Information Access in the Humanities

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Information Access in the Humanities

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  1. Information Access in the Humanities Selected Information Access Issues for Visual Materials

  2. Jeanette C. MillsDirector of Visual Services, UW School of Art • Slide Library • Media Center

  3. A researcher’s perspective

  4. Master’s thesis: Anthropology • “Changing fashion: the adoption of Euro-American clothing by Northwest Coast Indians” • Thesis for a master’s degree in Anthropology specializing in Museology (Museum Studies) • Completed in 1987

  5. Historical photographs • These are important visual materials for research but how do you access them?

  6. Where to begin? Pacific Northwest Collection • Part of Special Collections in UW Libraries • Searched Native American image collection • Microfilmed images allowed for quicker searching but image quality was not the best. • The collection was indexed by tribe and subject, but had to search broadly to find what I wanted.

  7. How librarians helped Told me about a few finding aids for images, e.g. Oregon Historical Society’s Union Guide to Photograph Collections in the Pacific Northwest. Also helped by suggesting numerous textual materials.

  8. Other ways of obtaining resources Visited several regional collections in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon because remote access was not possible.

  9. Now we have the Web • Projects like the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Digital Collection make visual resources more accessible.(

  10. Master’s thesis: Art History • “Land claim art: Joe David and his support of Meares Island Tribal Park” • Completed in 1990

  11. Contemporary art • Where does one find images of a living artist’s work?

  12. Where to begin? • Searched library catalogs and periodical indexes for materials that might include images. This included the clipping files and regional index in Special Collections. • Not much was available in the Slide Library. • Also researched historical precedents for his work by looking at historical photos.

  13. Other tactics • Went to some collectors, galleries, and museums; sometimes was allowed to photograph artworks myself. • Went to the artist, but he kept little or no record of his work.

  14. Now we have the Web • The Web provides only a little additional help for research on contemporary artists. • Found just two sites with images directly related to this artist:

  15. An image provider’s perspective

  16. Art Slide Library Background and statistics

  17. Staffing • 2 full-time staff (director and curator) • 1 to 1.5 FTE student/volunteer staff

  18. The collection • 300,000+ 35mm slides • School of Art collection, not part of UW libraries. • Intended as a resource for UW-related teaching and presentations. • Also house a small reference book collection intended primarily for use by staff.

  19. Organization • Natural language, hierarchical system (no catalog numbers). • Western art hierarchy is generally media, century, country, artist. • Asian breakdown is by media, period/dynasty, artist. • Tribal hierarchies are usually geographic regions followed by groups.

  20. Catalog records • Records are housed in a FilemakerPro database, based on the original home-grown FoxPro database started in 1989. • Database contains records for less than half the collection.

  21. Catalog records • Working on a linked artist authority database, which will include information from an artist authority card file (our major finding aid). • No keyword or subject indexing. • No public access terminal at this point.

  22. Users • Primary users are School of Art faculty and students. • The School of Art has 11 academic programs in art, art history, and design. • Also serve faculty and students from around campus, although we discourage widespread use by undergraduates due to space and staff limitations. • Not open to the public.

  23. Circulation • Faculty from outside the School of Art and all students may borrow slides for 24 hours. • We re-file 80,000 to 100,000 slides each year.

  24. Art Slide Library Reference services for staff and users

  25. Staff reference • Use reference sources regularly when cataloging. • Primarily use the resource links found on the staff intranet homepage. • Also use books in our reference collection. • Sometimes will search the web or use other web resources, for example: Toppenish Murals (

  26. User reference • Before autumn quarter begins, we do at least two group orientations where we provide handouts: • new MFA students • new Art History graduate students • As needed, other users are given an orientation to the collection.

  27. User reference: the easier questions • How to pronounce something correctly or the meaning of a term • Dates for an artist • Where to find something in the collection that doesn’t fit standard media categories • Attributes of a saint or some biblical text to understand context of a painting , e.g. new Bible concordance (

  28. User reference: difficult questions • Audience-specific requests: a K-12 teacher who needs images • Non-specific questions: an author who needs an image appropriate for a book cover; must include humans and animals in landscape • User knows subject but not title or creator: famous Vietnam War era photo of man being shot in the head

  29. Special problems • Title variations, e.g. English vs. original language, made-up titles • Artist name variations, e.g. El Greco vs. Theotocopoulos and Master of Flemalle vs. Robert Campin • Unique classification systems for some areas such as Early Christian/Byzantine art

  30. Problem-solving • Once again, rely on resources homepage and books in our office. • Search the slide database. • Sometimes must simply rely on the knowledge in our own heads.

  31. Art Slide Library Resources and handouts