August 2008 vol.5, no.4

Home for Images, The newsletter of the VRA

Notes from the President
Allan T. Kohl (Minneapolis College of Art & Design)
President, Visual Resources Association

Heading northwards, my Amtrak train slowly crossed over the bridge at Niagara Falls, and then came to a halt.  The crisply-uniformed Canadian border officer glanced at my passport, and asked me a few questions about my luggage and the purpose of my visit.  “I’m headed to Toronto for the Board meeting of my professional organization,” I told him.  “I’ll be there for three days.” 

The mid-year meeting of the VRA Executive Board is held in the host city of the coming year’s conference, in the hotel venue we will be using.  The Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto features a great central location, with room views overlooking this exciting, vibrant, cosmopolitan city.  Within easy walking distance, or a short ride on the subway, are major cultural destinations such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum (archaeology and natural history), along with unusual specialized collections such as the Bata Shoe Museum, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, and even the Hockey Hall of Fame.

During our three days on site, Board members met with key hotel staff, inspected accommodations and event facilities, and made decisions about matters such as room layouts and seating arrangements.  But we also checked those little details that can affect each member’s ability to have a positive conference experience:  how fast and frequent are the elevators? (good on both counts); is there a convenience store on-site? (yes); does the hotel respond to problems promptly and effectively? (my room’s leaking toilet was fixed within ten minutes after I reported it, past midnight, on my arrival night, and the apologetic night manager offered me a fruit plate to compensate for my inconvenience).

Usually the Board also meets with a representative from the local arrangements committee.  During our visit, Canada Chapter chair Eric Schwab took us on a walking tour past a number of ethnic neighborhoods and restaurants.  Toronto, it turns out, is both reasonably priced and relatively crime-free. 

The complexities of the conference planning process remind me in many ways of a theatrical production:  months of planning, designing, and rehearsing lead in an ascending arc towards the moment when the audience has gathered and the curtain goes up.  Given solid content and meticulous preparation, that audience will probably have a wonderful experience – sometimes blissfully unaware of the concerted backstage efforts that may be required to keep the magic from dissolving.  So I’m now going to invite you to come with me for a brief look behind the scenes.

At the beginning of the current decade, the Association adopted a for-profit conference model, in which income was intended to exceed costs and provide the VRA with an additional source of operating revenue beyond annual membership dues.

We were able to benefit from this model during the years following 9/11, when both airlines and hotels kept their prices artificially low in order to re-establish their customer bases.  Under current economic conditions, however, we are hard-pressed just to break even.  Nonetheless, we must consider as part of a much larger picture how raising our conference registration fees could affect our members’ ability to attend.  Skyrocketing fuel prices are driving the cost of air travel upwards, at the same time that airlines are cutting back the number of available flights.  Less dramatically, hotels have also raised their room rates, but they are wary of driving away potential conference business such as ours.  So, rather than resorting to big (and obvious) room rate increases to cover their rising costs, they employ more subtle means to bump their revenue streams.

Over the past three conference planning cycles, we have witnessed exponential growth in two of these “hidden costs,” which now have become the most expensive components of our overall conference budgets. 

The first of these is catering costs (known in the trade as Food and Beverage, or “F&B”).  As I noted in my earlier message on the conference planning process (Images, June, 2008), hotel contracts now require us to meet a substantial “F&B minimum,” as well as hotel room block pick-up, in order to receive free use of conference session facilities and meeting rooms. 

Our “F&B minimum” has increased markedly over the past three years.  For Kansas City (2007), it was $15,600; in negotiations for Atlanta (2010), even after having three candidate hotels bid against each other for our business, the lowest “F&B minimum” we could secure was $20,000 (not including tax and mandatory gratuities, which will push the actual figure we pay closer to $26,000!).  Our solution has been to satisfy this obligation by increasing the quantity and quality of food service at events such as the Membership Dinner, the New Members’ Breakfast, and the Annual Business Meeting.  Although it may at first glance seem a simple cost-cutting solution to scale back food service, the unfortunate consequence of our doing this would be to incur rental costs for facilities which we now use gratis.  There is, alas, no free lunch (actually or metaphorically!).

The other area of rapidly-escalating costs, but one over which we do have some measure of control, involves everything under the heading of AV equipment rental and set-up:  “wet” podiums, sound systems, multiple microphones for session Q&As, digital projectors and screens, network access – even individual extension cords (in Toronto, these are $35 apiece, per day!).  And no, we can’t just “bring our own” – in part for liability reasons, but also because hotel contracts stipulate that equipment and set-ups must be provided by “authorized” local contractors (from whose fees, of course, the hotel receives a percentage).  AV costs are now the single largest item in our conference budget.  We would have to pay, for example, nearly $400 per day to provide live network access in any one of our meeting rooms.  That’s one reason our Vice President for Conference Program, Vickie O’Riordan, asks each event organizer to specify exactly (and only!) what equipment is truly necessary; we can then try to coordinate the scheduling of events with similar set-up requirements.  During recent conferences we have literally wasted thousands of dollars by requesting non-essential equipment (that, in some cases, ended up not being used at all).  At today’s prices, we cannot afford to squander Association resources in this manner.

Another cost containment strategy we are exploring for Toronto is to move certain “tech-heavy” events off-site to the nearby Ontario College of Art and Design campus (an easy 10-15 minute walk from the hotel).  While doing this will offer us significant savings on the hotel AV costs we would otherwise incur to hold these events on-site, it does impose constraints on our scheduling options.  In the final assessment, this and every decision we face requires a compromise, in which we sacrifice a degree of flexibility in order to keep costs at a reasonable level (just as some of us individually do when we book an inconvenient red-eye flight in order to get that lower price).

Scary economic conditions are a reality we all must acknowledge and deal with, individually and collectively.  The Board is responding to these by striving to hold down costs for our attendees while still maintaining our established standards of facility and content quality.  Advance online conference registration fees will not be increased this year.  There will also be more travel awards available than at any previous time in our history.  In my next message, I plan to present several strategies that members may wish to consider to make their participation in our 27th annual conference more affordable.  And the forthcoming conference website will feature “Eric’s Tips” for making the most of your stay in Toronto – without compromising your personal budgets.

Conference planning was but one of many responsibilities on the agenda during our mid-year meeting.  The six of us spent an average of 14 hours a day together, bringing to the table our different personalities, ideas, and experiences as members.  We reviewed, discussed, and outlined responses for every mid-year report submitted by our committees, chapters, appointees, and task forces.  We considered ways in which the work done by our constituent groups might be more effectively coordinated.  We dealt with some inevitable changes in a positive spirit, while striving to respect the security of precedent.

Sunday night:  a gentle rain is falling as I take the subway and connecting bus to the airport (carefully timing my journey from hotel to terminal at 63 minutes:  others may need to know this information).  Our time here is finished, but our ongoing work has just begun.  Overall, I’m pleased with how effectively the Board has used our three days together, and proud of how much we’ve accomplished.  I clear U.S. customs and immigration at the Toronto airport (fortunately, the Presidential gavel is not deemed to be a dangerous weapon), and soon my Northwest flight is headed back home to Minneapolis.  The next seven months are going to be really busy ones, I reflect; but we’re off to a good start. 

The curtain goes up on March 17th, 2009 . . . I hope you’ll be there.

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Intellectual Property Rights News
Compiled by Jen Green (Massachusetts College of Art and Design)
Intellectual Property Rights Committee

Collaborative Social Networks: Copyright Dream, Nightmare or Reality
by Carl Johnson, Director of the Copyright Licensing Office, Brigham Young University and member of the VRA-IPR committee.

Summary of a presentation: Mr. Johnson recently presented this information at the EDUCAUSE Western Regional Conference, San Francisco, California, Apri1 1, 2008

Entire presentation available online at:

Assessing the many and varied copyright issues associated with vast and dynamic web based communication, access, and delivery systems such as collaborative social networks can be daunting. As media and other creative works are created, shared, and distributed via internet social networks, how are copyright ownership and use rights understood and applied in order to (1) respect the rights of authors/creators, (2) facilitate use/distribution of creative content and (3) further encourage individual creativity and authorship?

The summary reports our review of copyright policies, procedures and practices: generally and specifically our own institution’s policies, procedures and practices. In addition to reviewing our internal processes, we have also examined and analyzed the user policies of some social networks and the IT policies of some colleges and universities. Common questions arise in this environment: Is it OK to post video or other copyrighted content online? I think so? OK, as long as no one makes any money?  It should be OK as long as peoples’ faces are blurred.

Copyright and Licensing Overview

The basis of U.S. Copyright  Law is described in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The Congress shall have power…To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.“  

The types of works protected by copyright are: (1) Literary, Musical, Dramatic works; (2) Choreographic works; (3) Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; (4) Motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (5) Sound recordings; and (6) Architectural works.

The ownership rights of the copyright owner are: to do and to authorize the following: (1) to reproduce the work, (2) to prepare derivative works, (3) to distribute copies, (4) to perform the work publicly, (5) to display the work publicly and (6) to perform publicly a digital sound recording.

The copyright owner is one or more of the following: (1) Author/creator, (2) Employer owner when: employees create a work of authorship within the scope of their employment or by agreement--documented as a “Work for Hire” and fitting within specific categories.

As a user or potential user of works protected by copyright, some important exemptions in the U.S. Copyright Law which are limitations on copyright owner’s rights are the following: (1) Fair Use, Section 107; (2) Library Copying, Section108; (3)  First Sale Doctrine , Section 109; (4) Face-to-Face Teaching , Section 110(1); (5) Distance Education, Section 110 (2); (6) Computer Software, Section 120 and (7) Modifications for Blind and Disabled (121).  One specific provision of Section 110 (2) TEACH provision is to: …institute policies regarding copyright…provide informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the United States relating to copyright...

Attention to the different aspects of licensing and types of user agreements and terms of use include:  (1) so-called implied license, (2) click wrap/through license, (3) user agreements, (3) patron instructions, (4) terms of use and (5) copyright and use information

Example of user agreements on social network web sites, i.e.,You Tube: (1) User affirm… you own or have the necessary rights, consents and permissions; (2) You hereby grant… a worldwide, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works, display and perform…; (3) Notification of alleged infringement

Examples of Individual liability: (1) Direct copyright infringement, i.e., individual disregards institutional policy, they may be on their own” creating individual liability.

Examples of Institutional Liability: (1) Vicarious infringement; (2) Contributory infringement

Responsibilities as an Online Service Provider (OSP): (1) designate an agent to receive claimed infringement notifications; (2) provide all users informational materials that describe and promote compliance with U.S. Copyright laws…

Social Networking and Research Studies

London Knowledge Lab, U. of London

“…an investigation of students’ educational use of Facebook,  “If anything the data in this paper constitute a case of ‘business as usual’ with students simply being students—albeit in a more visible and noisy manner than is apparent in the formal settings of their university setting.”

European Network and Info Security Agency

Security Issues and Recommendations for online Social Networks

“…users should be educated in how to use social media safely via awareness raising efforts….targeted at students, parents and teachers…It requires a culture shift..from there may be dragons scaremongering attitude of banning SNS to a more mature attitude of encouraging sensible, well-informed use.”

Findings and Conclusion

Copyright education is one of the most important elements in achieving “copyright compliance” uses of social media within academic institutions.  Examples of this may be offering or providing copyright information: (1) Website, resources materials, newsletters, handouts; (2) Presentations, teaching at university and department meetings; (3) Displays; (4) Compliance recognition programs; (5) Copyright articles in campus newspaper; (6) Student forums and groups; (7) Student produced © information (8) Campus emails to students and faculty; (9) New student orientation materials; (10) Online copyright tutorials.

Points to consider when using social media:  (1) Promote copyright awareness and education; (2) Involve students in copyright awareness strategies; (3) Develop a copyright awareness culture; (4) Realize that copyright law lags behind the progress of technology; (5) Collaborate with others—begin a discussion regarding copyright and related issues.

Finally, accurately assessing the many and varied copyright issues within collaborative social networks can be a bit over whelming. Remember to apply copyright basics and keep the following in mind: while social networks and media can significantly facilitate the use, access to and distribution of creative content and further encourage individual creativity and authorship, the proper balance of respecting the rights of authors/creators should be achieved.

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Digital Scene and Heard
Edited by Jacquelyn Erdman (Florida Atlantic University)
Digital Initiatives Advisory Group

Guest Editor Maureen Burns (University of California, Irvine)

Technology is changing so quickly and nothing seems to stay the same for long. It is an adventure to try and just keep up with new trends. For example, the tools to manage and present images continue to develop. This summer has delivered ARTstor Beta (, a new technical platform and interface to provide digital library users with faster and easier image searching, browsing, and organizing as well as Insight 6.0, and a new LUNA ( dynamic browser with enhanced search capabilities and Flickr ( integration. Online digital image collections are growing at leaps and bounds and the general public is stepping up to describe images. Much of this image explosion can be attributed to social software, web-based programs that allow users to easily interact and share data. It is not just the new tools and shared images, but the communities forming in such common areas that are noteworthy. Below are three project summaries with links well worth exploring to better understand what this new hybrid of content, tools, and community can mean for visual resources collections. Building image collections is good, but building them together is better.

Digital Images Collections Wiki
By Maureen Burns (University of California, Irvine)

Wellesley College’s Digital Images Collections Wiki ( was developed to provide easy access to free and fair-use digital image collections for educational purposes. Marci Hahn enlisted Hollin Pagos, a library student and intern from Simmons College, to take on this project in order to supplement the growing visual resources collection at Wellesley ( The wiki format was chosen to encourage users to share links to useful image collections and to allow for ongoing growth. The user can choose from an alphabetical list of general image resources or from chronological or geographical lists, or compilations based on specific art forms or media. These links lead to fair use web sites, libraries, museums, software specific partners, or idiosyncratic collections. It is notable that Flickr and Wikimedia Commons ( image groups have been vetted for easy access here. It is a sort of dynamic portal to assist users in finding a wide array of free and fair use images to supplement the work of the visual resources collection while inviting users to contribute favorite links as well.         

Library of Congress
By Maureen Burns (University of California, Irvine)

The talk of 2008 was the launch of a Library of Congress’ pilot project on Flickr ( where 3,000 photographs were placed in a new commons area on this popular photo-sharing site. The general public was asked to tag and comment on 3,000 images from two popular LC collections in order to make these images more accessible and to enhance the quality of the bibliographic records. It is quite fascinating to look at the information users added to LC Flickr images and some indication of the overwhelmingly positive response can also be determined from the blog ( and frequently asked questions ( about this project. Hoping to create a new model for cataloging publicly held photographic collections, the Flickr Commons ( presently has images ready for tagging from four other cultural heritage institutions, including the Smithsonian. There seem to be a lot of people out there who want to contribute to building and identifying image collections and the resources are becoming all the richer due to the added value of descriptive terms from both the novice and professional. Last summer, a UC Irvine faculty member in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures uploaded almost 1,000 photographs of Japanese Kabuki, Noh, and other performances dating from the 1940s-1960s to Flickr ( We encourage anyone to try their hands at description or to share the link with other experts.
By Margo Ballantyne (Lewis and Clark College)

Developed from a wishful idea discussed two years ago across a light table in the Visual Resources Collection at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, is beginning to take shape. Margo Ballantyne, Visual Resources Curator, and Ted Vogel, Assistant Professor and Program Head in Ceramics, bemoaned the lack of digital images available for the teaching of Contemporary Ceramics. With no funds and no physical collection, they approached Mark Dahl and Jeremy McWilliams, two digitally savvy librarians in Watzek Library, to develop an online database for educational use. Proposed by Dahl, the quartet decided to use Flickr's software tools and social network capabilities to gather and store juried images through a customized web interface. The project is similar in spirit to the Library of Congress' photo collection in the Flickr Commons, but it does them one better by having the artists catalog their own images into prescribed metadata fields. The images in the collection can be downloaded individually or grouped into sets for display using the browser plugin Piclens. The project recently received a NITLE Instructional Innovation Grant to help populate the growing collection. Margo Ballantyne will be presenting information about the project at the VRA sponsored session at CAA Los Angeles in February. You can obtain more information and check out the project blog at

Please contact Jacquelyn Erdman with any questions or suggestions for future columns. For more information on the activities of the Digital Initiatives Advisory Group (DIAG) see

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Books, Articles and More
Compiled by Elizabeth Berenz (ARTstor)

Archiplanet: "A community-constructed collection for all the buildings, building users, and building creators on planet Earth"

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna, Trish Cashen and Hazel Gardiner, eds. Digital Art History: A Subject in Transition. Computers and the History of Art, Vol. I. Bristol: Intellect, 2005.

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna, Trish Cashen and Hazel Gardniner, eds. Futures Past: ThirtyYears of Art Computing. Computers and the History of Art, vol. II. Briston: Intellect, 2006.

Best Practices for Locating Copyright Owners of Photographic and Visual Art. American Society of Picture Professionals, 7/8/08, v. 2,

Image Issues: A blog for issues relating to the visual resources profession,

Upcoming Conferences
Submitted by Brooke Cox (DePauw University)

Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts 2008
September 14-17, 2008
Cambridge, UK

International Conference on the Preservation of Digital
September 29-30, 2008
London, UK

40th Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association
October 15-20, 2008
Blacksburg, VA

EDUCAUSE 2008 Annual Conference
October 28–31, 2008
Orlando, FL

Computers and the History of Art 2008 Conference
November 6-7, 2008
London, UK (venue to be confirmed)

36th Annual Museum Computer Network Conference
November 12-15, 2008
Washington, DC

Conference Topics:  Issues of National Concern for Museums; Social Networking, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0; Superior Content, Superior Delivery; Digital Readiness; Museum Information Standards; Opportunities for Emerging Professionals; Leadership, Sustainability, Accountability

Chapter News
Compiled by Trudy Levy (Image Integration)

VRA New England Chapter
Submitted by Megan Battey (Middlebury College)

The spring VRA New England chapter meeting was held jointly with ARLIS/NE at Wellesley College on Tuesday, June 3, 2008. Over 100 people attended. In the morning we met at the Wellesley College Club for breakfast, registration, and our business meetings. Thirty-nine people attended the VRA-NE business meeting.

The morning program followed with Robert Carlucci, Manager of the Visual Resources Collection at Yale University, giving a wonderful talk on the changing role of visual resources in a digital environment and how it affects the work of Art Librarians and VR Professionals.  We had a delicious buffet lunch at the College Club, and in the afternoon were treated to tours of the campus and the Davis Museum and Cultural Center. We were fortunate to have good weather and to see the campus in all its glory with the rhododendrons in bloom.  At the end of the day we gathered at the Jewett Arts Center to tour the Art Library and the VR Collection, and to have refreshments. Thanks go to Marci Hahn and Brooke Henderson of Wellesley College for all their work in organizing this meeting.  

Photos from the Wellesley meeting can be seen at

Mark your calendars now (!) for the fall chapter meeting to be held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY on October 23-24, 2008. The newly opened EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) will be a centerpiece of this two-day mini-conference. This will be a joint meeting of four groups: the Western NY and New England Chapters of ARLIS, and the Upstate NY and New England Chapters of VRA.

VRA Southeast Chapter
Submitted by Emy Decker (University of Georgia)

The Fall meeting will be held at the University of Alabama on Friday, August 1, 2008. We will kick off with a Business meeting at 9:00 am.  Following that there will be the following sessions:

Seeking the Right Path for Visual Resources Users
Barbara Brenny, Visual Resources Librarian, North Carolina State Universities Libraries

Metadata Support for Digital Collections
Mary Alexander, Metadata Coordinator, University of Alabama

Architectural Presentation: National Register of Historic Places: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Gene Ford, Architectural Historian, University of Alabama

Private Art Collection Tour:Contemporary local, regional and nationally known artist, Home of Jim Sokol and Lyndia Cheney

Both lunch and dinner will be provided.  The meeting will be hosted by Pat Cosper at the University of Alabama - Birmingham.  We will need to know in advance who needs a pass and will have to make arrangements to get the passes to you. Please contact me if you want a parking pass.  There will information provided at the meeting about several attractions, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, Vulcan and the Civil Rights Museum. Anyone who is staying until Saturday will be able to enjoy these various venues at their convenience.

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