Monday, March 24, 2008

More information from the VRA conference

On Thursday March 13th the VRA Membership dinner ended the day of conferencing. (We had chicken. What a surprise.)

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Maurizio Seracini, Director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Seracini is searching for the lost mural the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci, which was destroyed (supposedly) when the Room of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence was enlarged by Vasari by order of Cosimo I.

Dr. Seracini feels that the original Leonardo battle scene was somehow encapsulated beneath the later work by Vasari by an ingenious pocket of air over the fresco. (I have never been fond of Vasari, who was kind of a weasel, so I have trouble envisioning him as a hero!). The CISA3 investigation of the Room of the Five Hundred uses infrared, x-ray, radar, and thermographic cameras (and other non-invasive tools) to study the walls and their frescoes.

Dr. Seracini feels that traditional study of art, architecture, and archaeology (the three As) can not fully understand the complexity of the work (the object) since we are accustomed to studying the work visually with the human eye. Using other, technological and scientific means of examining and conceptualizing the objects can expand our knowledge of the work, and allow us to know the art and the objcts more fully. The potential for investigations of architecture and archaeological sites is exciting.

He was an inspiring keynote speaker because his enthusiasm for his work and his love of cultural objects and their stories. It is refreshing to see someone maintain this energy throughout his career.

The next day, Friday, a session called "Improving Your Image: Marketing Visual Resource Collections" was very engaging. Visual Resources Curators are not in the habit of thinking about "marketing" and advertising their collections. Collections are usually integral to the curriculum and community of a department or college and outreach is not necessary. As the information age becomes more complex and faster-paced, and as the nature of academia changes, visual rseources collections have to change with the times.

This session dealt with ways of encouraging faculty to seek new technologies and digital information from the "traditional" slide collection, which many faculty (and students) still equate with 35mm film, dust, and librarians. Ideas like newsletters, featured images or websites, blogs (Hmm. Let's make a BLOG!), cookies, crashing meetings, door prizes, you name it - were talked about at the session.

Brooke Cox, the session organizer, and Jessica Bozeman, one of the presenters, are from DePauw University, and they devised a clever "advertising" campaign for their Visual Resources Center using videos that they posted on YouTube. They have been sending links to the videas out over the VRA's listserve (much to our enjoyment!) and so I will share one here in this blog.

There is a series of these parodies and they are rather funny.

In my next posting to this VRC BLOG*, I will write self-importantly about the Sunday March 16th session on Architecture that I organized - and about a promising new project that SAH (the Society for Architectural Historians) is undertaking for a shared images resource.

Perhaps I will have an open house and serve cookies as my next advertising attempt.


Heather Seneff, Director
Visual Resources Collection
College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University of Washington

* blantant marketing schtick

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