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 inhabited a small room in Eliot Hall and was 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 1989, a gift from two trustees, 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 Center has grown considerably since its modest inception. Housed in the basement floor of the Hauser Library, adjacent to the Art History Conference Room and the Print and Drawing Study Room, the VRC now employs a full-time librarian, a digital resources specialist, and 4-8 students staff the Visual Resources Center. The Department of Art considers employment in the Visual Resources Center a valuable experience for students, especially for art and art history majors.
The Visual Resources Center still houses and maintains a slide collection but has shifted focus towards the creation, acquisition and preservation of digital images. The main mission continues to be in support of the teaching and research of visual culture, but has expanded to also provide access to the creative holdings and output of the college. All exhibitions in the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery are photographed and available to the public through the Cooley Gallery Exhibition Collection. Additionally, a selection of artist’s books have been photographed and can be experience through the Artists’ Books Digital Collection. The aim of the Department is to have the Center run as a model of a small, liberal arts college Visual Resources Center, following the most respected professional practices and keeping abreast of recent advances in image technology.