When the slides aren’t slides any more…


By Kari Smith, head of VRC and Media Services
Jun 17, 2011 Bookmark and Share

VRC news update

An image is an image by any other name, to paraphrase Shakespeare.  Here at the Visual Resources Collections (VRC) our mission for over ninety years has been to provide images for teaching, research, and scholarship for the study of the history of art and related disciplines at the University of Michigan.  And while our mission has not changed, how we provide these images has changed over time.  From the beginnings in the 1920s of the photograph collections to the generation of lantern slides, black and white and color 35mm slides, and onto digital images, the staff of the VRC have moved images for study through successive generations of media.  The present is no different and once again we are fully engaged in such a transition.

In August 2010, the department announced that the 35mm slide teaching collections would no longer be used as primary teaching media. As of January 2011, the collection closed for general use.  In keeping with the process of the teaching collections over time, we will retain high-quality and high-value 35mm slides, just as we still have selections from the nineteenth-century photographic prints, lantern slides, and other reproductions of art and architectural images in formats that used to be primary. This is in keeping with the trend at our peer institutions of moving from 35mm slide collections to digital images and visual material electronic resources.

There is more to visual material than the subject of the image and, like you, we who curate this material feel strongly about this issue. There is nostalgia in the "click" of the slide projector, the quick flipping through slides in Neumade cabinets, in handling and viewing slivering of nineteenth-century photographic prints, in looking at hand-colored lantern slides through the light in a window. That notwithstanding, we know that our mission is to provide images to faculty, students, and scholars for their study, research and learning–and that the best method for this currently is making available the visual material in digital image files with associated rich descriptive data.

We are working hard to evaluate the more than 350,000 slides in the teaching collections to determine what we will keep for long-term use in closed local storage.  These slides will be described by finding aids to assist researchers in knowing what we have in the combined research collections of visual images at the VRC.  These include prints, slides, negatives, and transparencies of Islamic, European, American, Southern Asian, East Asian, and Southeast Asian visual material that before 2007 were kept in separate collections from the Teaching Collections.  This includes the extant slide sets from the three slide distribution projects that were run here from the 1960s – 1990s:  ACSAA Color Slide Project, AAPD, and UMSD.

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, please read the document:  
FAQ about the Teaching Collections Slide Closure Project.  Feel free to contact me directly at:  karismit@umich.edu with comments.