The Visual Resources Association is a multi-disciplinary, international professional
organization dedicated to furthering research and education in the field of media
management within the educational, cultural heritage, and commercial environments. The
Association is committed to providing leadership in the visual resources field,
developing and advocating standards, and offering educational tools and activities,
publication programs, and opportunities for the benefit of the community at large. The
Association offers a forum for issues of vital concern to the field of digital and
analog curation, including: preservation of and access to digital and analog images of
media documenting visual culture; cataloging and classification standards and practices;
integration of technology-based instruction and research; digital humanities;
intellectual property policy; visual literacy and other topics of interest to the field.
Through collaboration, partnership, and outreach with the broader information
management, and educational, and scholarly communities, the Association actively
supports the primacy of visual information in documenting and understanding humanity's
shared cultural experience.
Brief History of the VRA
From as early as 1968, visual resources curators had been meeting during the annual College Art Association (CAA) conferences. During these sessions, they discussed issues of particular interest to that segment of CAA members whose work involved the management of art slide collections. Given the success of these meetings, during the next several years attempts were made to formalize the relationship of these curators with the larger College Art Association. The group remained, however, essentially an ad hoc committee of VR curators for several years.
During the early 1970s, a similar group was forming with the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). This group met with the annual ARLIS/NA conferences. The group's purpose was to provide support and development for those members of ARLIS/NA involved in visual resources management.
By the late 1970s, both regional activity and international activity had begun. Comite International d'Histoire de l'Art (CIHA) recognized the visual resources subgroup as an important part of the international association. VR sessions were provided during the conference in Bologna in 1979. On a regional level, Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), Mid-America College Art Association (MACAA) group, led by Nancy DeLaurier, of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, met during MACAA's annual conferences. In 1972, this group began to meet independently, creating workshops and sessions on various aspects of VR maintenance. For the workshops, members developed several kits for the benefit of attending VR managers. These kits included information on slide room management, standards of VR management, and other practical aspects of the VR profession. This group also created a newsletter, Slides and Photographs Newsletter, which contained news and information on issues of concern to members. This newsletter was supported by CAA and later by MACAA and eventually became known as the International Bulletin for Photographic Documentation of the Visual Arts
In 1980, with almost a decade of informal association, visual resources curators active in CAA and ARLIS/NA began a process of becoming a formal association. Discussions were held and a polling was done of curators in ARLIS/CAA, and other groups. Some curators felt that formalizing the group was unneccesary, that the various umbrella groups were sufficient. Others felt enthusiastic about defining a group which had already become such an important part of their professional lives. Despite poor response to initial polling (only 142 questionnaires out of 915 were mailed!), subsequent balloting allowed for the formation of the association in the fall of 1982. Temporary officers were Christine Sundt (chairperson); Nancy Schuller (vice chairperson); and Nancy DeLaurier (secretary/treasurer). Bylaws were drawn up and the first official meeting was held during the annual CAA meeting in Philadelphia in February 1983. Members were those curators who subscribed to the Bulletin. In Philadelphia, officers were elected. They included Christine Sundt, president; Suzanne Babineau-Simenauer, vice president; Helen McGinnis, secretary; Nancy Schuller, treasurer; and Nancy DeLaurier, past president.
Today the VRA is a firmly established association with over 600 active members. The association provides its members wide-ranging benefits. Professional networking, career development, up-to-the-minute news on new technologies and advances in the field are part of the the VRA Advantage. The annual conference, held in a different city each year, provides workshops on issues of interest, a chance to meet colleagues both formally and informally, and the opportunity to view current commercial products
The VRA Bulletin is the quarterly publication of the association. The VRA Bulletin features articles on many important issues, which include reviews of annual conference sessions; profiles of slide/photograph collections; association; listings of upcoming conferences, workshops or exhibits; reviews of recent meetings; and columns on specific issues ranging from cataloging, tips on copy photography procedures, standardization issues, and collection administration. Also included in the VRA Bulletin are positions listings, reviews of recent publications, and updates on commercial slide sources. It is truly a gold mine of materials for the VR manager.