Salt Cellars, Oliphants, and Gems: Preserving Legacy Image Collections

Visual Resources Association 26th Annual Conference, San Diego, California, March 12, 2008

Organizer & Moderator   Kathe Hicks Albrecht, American University


Many visual resources curators are faced with the challenging task of serving as guardians of legacy image collections. Often these collections were built by individual faculty members over the course of decades or more. They may vary in size from hundreds of 35mm slides to thousands of digital images. These collections may visually represent significant contributions to the study of art history, anthropology, gemology, or other field. But tackling legacy collections can be quite tricky. Above and beyond scanning, storing, and access issues, the VR curator may have to deal with spotty, incomplete cataloging; slides in varying degrees of decline; basic collection organization that is non-existent or unfathomable; data notebooks in disarray; and documentation that is often hand-written or in a foreign language. The curator must also ask how—or whether-- the legacy images will fit into an overall collection development plan. These are just a few of the challenges facing a legacy collection manager. Today’s session will look at several successful legacy collections and the important partnerships that have been forged between the collection’s creator and the visual resources manager charged with maintaining the collection. It is my hope that today’s conversation will reveal some of the inherent challenges, suggest some practical tips and successful tactics, and allow us to return to our individual workplaces better equipped to deal with potential image legacy issues.

A Famed Gemologist's Slide Legacy: The Dr. Eduard J. G. Gübelin Collection
Judy Colbert, Gemological Institute of America

Reframing Legacies: Turning Liabilities into Assets
Christine L. Sundt, Editor, Visual Resources

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Christina B. Updike, Kathleen G. Arthur, Sara Nair James, James Madison University