From the Chair

Greetings, colleagues, from the first blog edition of Views!

In these times of decreased staff and budgets, and increased workloads, I find it challenging to be engaged professionally beyond the demands of my current position. Maybe it’s just me, but something tells me I’m not alone there. I hope the flexibility of the new platform proves less taxing on our dedicated editorial staff and encourages more of us (myself included) to contribute content. The ongoing success of Views going into the future depends on it.

A belated thanks to all of you who made the Section meeting a great success. Patrick Cullom’s presentation, which addressed the challenges of processing a newspaper photo morgue, and Elliot Williams’ presentation, which addressed the challenges of creating metadata for large collections, were informative and thought provoking. Both generated lively audience discussions, demonstrated the collective experience of Section members, and created an atmosphere of comradery. An especially big thanks goes to Sandra Varry for organizing and running the meeting, her leadership throughout the past year, and preparing me to assume the office of Chair. For those of you who attended the preconference tour of the Wittliff Collection, tasted Tex-Mex fare at the Section dinner, or shared pastries, ramen, or Israeli street food at one of the meetups, I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. And if you took pictures of any of the Section activities, please send them along so we can update the website.

Following the flurry of activity surrounding the Annual Meeting, I returned to work inspired by the presentations and sessions, excited to have met new colleagues, and utterly exhausted. Now, nearly three months later, it’s time to get back to VMS business and focus on the future.

2020 marks the end of the Section’s current Three-Year Plan that laid out core activities and specific initiatives. It also marks the start of SAA’s Strategic Plan 2020-2022, approved by Council in May, that asks the question, “What will constitute future success?” The plan defines four specific goals and provides strategies to achieve them with the intent of answering the question. Over the next several months, leadership will review the Section’s current plan and begin drawing up a new one with an eye towards incorporating elements of SAA’s plan. But to create a robust plan that truly reflects the Section’s membership, leadership will need your input. Next month I will convene leadership to begin strategizing, and minutes of the meeting will be posted on the VMS website. Of course if you’re already champing at the bit to participate, by all means send me an email. Otherwise, stay tuned for future communications.

Mary Alice Harper

Head of Visual Materials Cataloging

Harry Ransom Center

The University of Texas at Austin



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Get to Know Our Newest Steering Committee Members

Alison Anderson, MSLIS, CA 

Senior Processing Archivist

Harvard Planning Office, Property Information Resource Center

VMS Member-at-Large, 2018-2021

Hi, I am the incoming Visual Materials Section member-at-large. I am the Senior Processing Archivist at the Harvard University Property Information Resource Center (PIRC), which is the repository for Harvard’s buildings and land records. I work primarily with architectural drawings, but I also process maps, photographs, and property records. I enjoy the challenges that architectural drawings pose, including their size, condition, and various formats. What I love most is that even though our collections only directly relate to Harvard’s properties, they are actually extremely diverse. Instead of an archive that collects the works of a few architects or an architectural firm that retains only their own work, I get to view the works of hundreds of architects across centuries, each possessing a unique style. Also, after I process a drawing, I can walk out onto the campus and see the finished product! It is fascinating to see the growth of a university that has existed for almost 400 years.

Lilli Keaney

Harrison D. Horblit Photograph Librarian

Houghton Library, Harvard University

VMS Member-at-Large, 2019-2022

Hi everyone! I’m excited to be more involved in VMS and SAA and serve the Section as a member-at-large. I’m fortunate to work exclusively with photographs, and love that I can really dive into the complexities these materials require. We often don’t have a lot of accompanying information to identify the photographs in our collection, and I truly enjoy the occasional foray into a little detective research work. Sometimes this can be quite fruitful, but even when it isn’t, I always learn something new about the history of photography. The information I do find is critical to my work and to providing access; I primarily work on digital projects and putting a photo online without a lot of metadata can make it difficult for users to find. As an added benefit, that data also gives me the chance to experiment with new ways of presenting the material to our users.