Visual Resources Collection History

The slide collection at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, was established in 1964 by Charles Rhyne of the Art History Department when the program in art history became a regular part of the Reed curriculum. Prior to 1964, a few faculty maintained what was considered the "slide collection" at Reed College. These slides were housed in the Library as one of the groups of miscellaneous materials.

From 1964 through 1987, the slide collection was housed in a small room in Eliot Hall and managed entirely by the resident art historians, Charles Rhyne and, beginning in 1971, Peter Parshall, with student help. Faculty in the Art History Department used the collection almost exclusively. The one exception was that faculty members teaching in the Reed Humanities sequence, borrowed slides for the day they gave a lecture or taught a conference on art in their Humanities courses. In the past few years, however, as art has been recognized as an integral part of course work in other disciplines, the slide collection has been used increasingly by faculty members in classics, literature, history, etc.

In 1989, a gift of 4.7 million dollars from two trustee families, for the development of the Art History program, made possible the construction and furnishing of the Visual Resources Collection, part of the new Library addition, and the hiring of the College’s first professional Slide Curator, at half-time. Professor Rhyne designed the room down to the exact dimensions of the slide-viewing table. The plans were reviewed and suggestions made by Christine Sundt (Slide Librarian, University of Oregon, Eugene) and, for the small darkroom, by John Weber (Reed graduate and Curator of Contemporary Art, Portland Art Museum).

Housed in the basement floor of the Hauser Library, adjacent to the Art History Conference Room and the Print and Drawing Study Room, the visual resources library occupies a 700 square foot room with a separate year round climate control system to maintain proper temperature and humidity.

The Visual Resources Collection has grown considerably since its modest inception. Today, a full-time librarian, a digital resources specialist, and five students staff the Visual Resources Collection. Major projects are undertaken during summers, when students are hired with additional hours per week. The Department of Art considers employment in the Visual Resources Collection a valuable experience for students, especially for art and art history majors. The size of the Collection now stands at 77,000 digital images and 100,000 slides. The emphasis of the holdings is on Western art, particularly Renaissance and modern painting, and architecture. In addition, sculpture, graphic arts, manuscript illumination and photography are well represented. The collection's holdings of non-western art continue to grow with emphasis in Chinese art and architecture.

Slides are classified first according to medium, time period and country, then alphabetically under the name of the artist or architect (anonymous, pre-Renaissance, and some other architecture is by location). Classification with each artist varies, usually by chronology or subject matter.

The Visual Resources Collection obtained a Macintosh (Model IIsi) in January 1991 to use for word processing and data base design (Claris FileMaker Pro) and a laser printer (LaserWriter II) for slide labels, correspondence, etc. In 2001, an iMac, Macintosh G3 and Macintosh G4 were added to the collection, and the latest version of FileMaker continues to serve the Collection well. To date, the Collection has 62,000 records in the database and 1,100 digital images. All exhibitions in the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery are now fully recorded in original slides, one set of which becomes part of the Visual Resources Collection.

The Department of Art values the Visual Resources Collection not only for the support of daily classes but increasingly as an archive of top quality color images for faculty research, student reports and papers. For this reason a special attempt is made to acquire the very finest original color slides, including significant details, and digital images. The aim of the Department is to have the Collection run as a model of a small, liberal arts college collection, following the most respected professional practices and keeping abreast of recent advances in image technology.