Collections Development Policy

Digital Collections

I. Mission

The ​Visual Resources Center​ (VRC), part of the UChicago Department of Art History, provides responsive support to the Department as well as to other academic programs throughout the Division of the Humanities through the expert provision and development of high-quality visual resources for teaching and research. Born-digital and digitized images, video, and audio are stored and maintained in LUNA, the digital collections management system supported by the Library’s Digital Library Development Center and Humanities Computing (see Preservation sections for Art History and Campus Collaborations).  

The VRC’s collecting practices largely involved the creation and maintenance of still images, and has expanded its goals to include a physical education collection composed of art historical objects, materials, and tools for use in teaching and research.

II. Scope

The VRC’s main image collection, the Art History Department Image Collection, comprises images requested by faculty, instructors, and students at the University of Chicago for teaching and research, as well as related images identified as pertinent to development in underrepresented areas. The VRC additionally hosts individual collections of original content on LUNA in collaboration with a select set of over nineteen campus partners, including the Library, Renaissance Society, UChicago Campus Art Collection, and Smart Museum of Art.

The collections hosted on LUNA represent the strengths of research in the Art History Department as well as the greater collecting and exhibiting interests on campus. The collections are currently strong in Asian and modern European art, as well as the compiled images of multiple collections and exhibiting institutions on UChicago’s campus. The VRC is committed to ethical collections development that prioritizes underrepresented areas in visual culture relevant to faculty and students’ teaching and research. Digital images obtained from published sources are restricted to the following: we are able to include images of works from contemporary sources, but we cannot make PDF scans of text, full pages, or entire contemporarily-published books available in LUNA. However, the VRC can digitize selections from historical books out of copyright available via UChicago Special Collections, or when the book is being treated as an object of graphic design history, and ephemeral materials from partnering institutions including newsletters, plans, and correspondence. 

The Joel Snyder Materials Collection, developed and maintained by the VRC, makes art historical objects, materials, and tools available for instructor and student handling. The Collection is developed in consultation with faculty, instructor, and students’ research and teaching recommendations. Subject areas for collecting can include but are not limited: Architecture, Sculpture, Design, Drawing, Painting, Print Media, Decorative Arts and Applied Arts, Manufactures, and Handcrafts. Materials in the collection in-line with research and teaching interests are not restricted by time period or geographic location. 

The accompanying image collection of objects is hosted on LUNA, the digital collections management system supported by the Library’s Digital Library Development Center and Humanities Computing (see Preservation section). 

Sensitive Material Disclaimer: The images in the collections are based on faculty and student teaching and research, as well as the needs of campus institutions and greater Chicago collaborators. The VRC is committed to maintaining an inclusive and diverse collection representative of broad research interests. In accordance with the collecting policies, some images may depict violent, offensive, or sexual themes. Some materials available in the collection are toxic, and should be handled with appropriate care and precaution. Please note that these are important components of campus research, and should be used at the viewer’s discretion.  

III.  Collections Content and Criteria

Art History Department Image Collection

Digitization
Standards

The VRC scans images using the equipment detailed below at 300 dpi for photo-quality resolution. All images digitized by the VRC are saved in TIFF form. All images are edited in Photoshop to maintain color accuracy, correct moire patterns, adjust light balance, and remove imperfections created during the scanning process. 

Methods
  1. Digitization of original or print material by VRC students and staff
    • Equipment used for digitization can include flatbed scanners, a copy stand with DSLR camera, an overhead BookEye scanner, and a HasselbladFlextight X5 film scanner for slides and negatives. 
    • Digitization is funded by the VRC for image projects by request of faculty/instructor for use in one or more courses or research projects. Faculty funds larger digitization projects when appropriate. 
  2. Ingesting images from museums, archives, vendors, or other public image collections available for fair use, under public domain, or via Creative Commons (CCO) license. Images obtained from other institutions are subject to VRC image standards to maintain quality in the database.
  3. Digital-born images created by VRC students and staff including photographs, layouts, diagrams, and maps.   
  4. Ingesting images from personal image collections of faculty and graduate students (refer to Personal Archiving.)
Metadata

Digital materials will be cataloged according to VRA Core 4 based on the Dublin Core metadata standards. Data is entered according to Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) standards and uses controlled vocabularies from the Library of Congress, the Getty, and other cultural organizations.  

As part of our commitment to metadata maintenance and critical cataloging, the VRC invites users to propose corrections, updates, or edits to our metadata records by emailing visualresources@uchicago.edu.

Personal Archiving

Students and faculty are able to submit their personal research photographs and original image archives to be hosted in LUNA. Images will be subject to the VRC’s metadata description standards and will be maintained with the rest of the collection. All images are attributed to the individual, who retains copyright of their images. Students and faculty may elect to embargo their personal image archive contributions from inclusion in LUNA for 5 years with the possibility of requesting an additional 5 years extension.

Preservation

All image files are maintained on VRC servers. Original image files of rare or unique works only (but not scans of widely available artwork reproductions) and corresponding metadata records in the Art History Department Image Collection will additionally be transferred to the Digital Library Development Center’s archive where they can be properly maintained in a digital preservation environment to avoid the risk of corruption. A copy of the master files will remain on VRC servers.

Access

The Art History Department Image Collection, along with several other LUNA collections maintained by the VRC, is password-protected and accessible only to active University CNetID holders, including faculty, staff, students and University of Chicago Lab School instructors and students in 6th–12th grades. Images can be exported from LUNA at 72ppi, 1536 pixels on the long-edge, suitable for classroom projection and use in essays or other education purposes.

Image and metadata files may be shared with UChicago users upon request for inclusion in personal image archiving platforms, digital exhibition projects, or other circumstances. Image and metadata files may be shared with users outside of the UChicago network upon request when available. 

Campus Collaborations

Digitization
Standards

The VRC scans images using the equipment detailed below at 300 dpi for photo-quality resolution. All images digitized by the VRC are saved in TIFF form. All images are edited in Photoshop to maintain color accuracy, correct moire patterns, adjust light balance, and remove imperfections created during the scanning process. 

Methods
  1. Ingesting photographs from the collaborating partner

Images created by the partnering institution can be shared with the VRC and hosted on LUNA. These images may include installation photographs, event photographs, object photography, etc.

  1. Original digitization by VRC staff and students of photographs, negatives, objects, and associated ephemeral materials. Digitization can be undertaken by one or more of the following project structures:
    • VRC-funded project by request of faculty/instructor for use in one or more courses
    • Externally-funded student employment position, trained and managed by VRC staff
    • Fee-based digitization project charged back to the VRC

Equipment used for digitization can include flatbed scanners, a copy stand with DSLR camera, an overhead BookEye scanner, and a HasselbladFlextight X5 film scanner for slides and negatives. Any typewritten, text-based documents digitized can be made available as OCR PDFs.

Metadata

Each collection has a metadata schema unique to the needs of the collaborating partner. The VRC adheres to VRA Core 4 cataloging standards when available to the collection. 

The metadata shared by campus collections, whether publicly or privately available, is property of the collaborating partner. VRC staff and student employees may make additional transformations or changes to the original metadata (including subject analysis, style period analysis, research into connections across collections, etc.). Additionally, the VRC may post images and metadata from campus collections to our social media accounts or to the Department of Art History’s news stories. We will appropriately cite and tag the collaborating collection in such social posts. Any additional transformations or changes made to the original metadata by VRC staff or students, and any VRC social media posts or news stories areis intellectual property of the VRC.  

As part of our commitment to metadata maintenance and critical cataloging, the VRC invites users to propose corrections, updates, or edits to our metadata records by emailing visualresources@uchicago.edu.

Preservation

Image files and metadata records will be transferred to the Library Digital Repository managed by the Digital Library Development Center’s archive where they can be properly maintained in a digital preservation environment to avoid the risk of corruption. A copy of the master files will also be maintained on VRC servers and a copy will be given to each participating unit.

Access

Campus collaborators can elect to make their dedicated LUNA collection publicly available or password-protected to campus users with CNetIDs. Images from campus collaborators may or may not be available for download via the LUNA viewer based on the collection agreement.

Image and metadata files will be shared with the collaborating partner. The VRC will only share image and metadata files with other users with the direct permission and approval from the collaborating partner. 

Joel Snyder Materials Collection

The collection contains historical examples of art, contemporary reproductions, contemporarily-manufactured tools and materials, and raw materials. A particular strength of the collection are the historical pigment samples. The value of the objects in the collection is in their ability to be used for educational, “hands-on” purposes; they are not typically classified as museum- or conservation-grade objects. The VRC is dedicated to making materials widely available to a number of researchers.

Accordingly, single-use materials and materials unable to be handled by any researcher cannot be added to the collection. The VRC reserves the right to turn down materials based on storage and care considerations, as well as hazard concerns to users and other objects in the collection.

Additions to the Collection
Purchasing

Students, faculty, and instructors are eligible to request the purchase of specific materials for the collection. The VRC will purchase items or materials that individuals or classes wish to have for the Materials Collection aligning with the collecting policies by consultation and subsequent approval. To request the purchase of materials, please write to visualresources@uchicago.edu.

Reimbursement

There may be instances where faculty or students purchase items on their own (due to time constraints, or because they’re purchasing on location, such as during independent research trips or during the Gold-Gorvy Traveling Seminars in the Department of Art History, etc.) that the VRC can acquire later. Faculty or student purchases for the collection may be reimbursed by the VRC. Please consult with the VRC prior to making purchases. 

Gifts

Unconditional donations from faculty, students, staff are appreciated and accepted when in-line with the collections development policy. Materials must be transferred to the Materials Collection without limitations or restrictions of any kind. The VRC cannot accept temporary or long-term loans of materials. Credit lines can be made publicly available in LUNA when appropriate. If you are interested in donating materials to the Collection, please write to visualresources@uchicago.edu for further information. 

Digitization
Standards

The VRC scans images using the equipment detailed below at 300 dpi for photo-quality resolution. All images digitized by the VRC are saved in TIFF form. Images captured using the DSLR camera include a color bar to set the color accuracy. All images are edited in Photoshop to maintain color accuracy, correct moire patterns, adjust light balance, and remove imperfections created during the scanning process.

Methods

The majority of objects will be digitized by VRC students and staff using a copy stand with DSLR camera. In specific instances, 2-dimensional objects may be captured on flatbed scanners, an overhead BookEye scanner, or the large-format sheet scanner at the University of Chicago Map Collection. Slides and negatives will be captured on the VRC’s Hasselblad Flextight X5 film scanner. 

Metadata

Objects in the Materials Collection are accessioned into the collection in the same manner as images. Digital images of the objects will be cataloged according to VRA Core 4 based on the Dublin Core metadata standards. Data is entered according to Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) standards and uses controlled vocabularies from the Library of Congress, the Getty, and other cultural organizations.  

As part of our commitment to metadata maintenance and critical cataloging, the VRC invites users to propose corrections, updates, or edits to our metadata records by emailing visualresources@uchicago.edu.

Preservation

The VRC will exercise precautions in storing and preserving the objects, but the objects are entering a teaching collection and will be made available for handling, examination, and possible conservation intervention by instructors and students. The VRC intends to safely store and facilitate access to the objects as best we can in the context of a teaching collection, but we do not have museum quality storage, security, or HVAC systems. Some contemporary materials are perishable, and may be replaced by demand. 

All corresponding image files are maintained on VRC servers. Original image files and corresponding metadata records will additionally be transferred to the Digital Library Development Center’s archive where they can be properly maintained in a digital preservation environment to avoid the risk of corruption. A copy of the master files will remain on VRC servers.

Access

Objects are available for handling, examination, and possible conservation intervention by faculty, instructors, and students at the University of Chicago by appointment. To schedule an appointment to view or reserve materials for use in a course, write to visualresources@uchicago.edu. Materials can be viewed at any time during regular VRC hours. 

Images of the Joel Snyder Materials Collection hosted on LUNA are password-protected and accessible only to active University CNetID holders, including faculty, staff, students and University of Chicago Lab School instructors and students in 6th–12th grades. Images can be exported from LUNA at 72ppi, 1536 pixels on the long-edge, suitable for classroom projection and use in essays or other education purposes.

IV.  Maintenance and Removal

The VRC provides regular quality control maintenance on our metadata records and image files, but with a collection so large we may miss something. If you notice a mistake, please write to visualresources@uchicago.edu and we will correct it. The VRC implements critical cataloging practices to repair and improve metadata records that are misleading or incorrect in the database, prioritizing areas of the collection aligned with active faculty and student teaching and research.

Objects depleted by use or expiration will not automatically be replaced in the collection, but will undergo the same collections considerations detailed above and be replaced as cost and demand allows. VRC staff will make every effort to assist instructors and students in safe handling of items in the Materials Collection to prevent damage and loss. The VRC has occasionally sought to accession damaged items into the collection (such as a daguerreotype that has been removed from its frame) as didactic materials in their own right. While there is utility and research interest in having objects in different conditions, examining damage, etc., materials that become too damaged or are no longer able to be properly and safely handled in a classroom setting may be subject to deaccessioning from the collection. 

Digital images may need to be removed from the collection due to quality concerns, duplication, or copyright disputes. Images will be removed from LUNA, but the original files will be preserved on the server, excluding copyright violations. 

V.  Copyright

The Visual Resources Center provides access to digital materials for educational and research purposes under Fair Use as defined by copyright law. The VRC does not authorize use or reproduction of copyrighted digital materials for commercial purposes. It is the responsibility of the user to determine copyright permissions for images, and in some instances the VRC may be able to provide advice on your project. The VRC can provide high-resolution, publication quality files upon request when reproduction is authorized. 

Last Updated: September 11, 2020