Reports on the 3rd Joint ARLIS/NA + VRA (The Art Libraries Society of North America and the Visual Resources Association) Conference 2016

Seattle downtown resembles Kakaako: development happening everywhere.

In the gray and rainy city of Seattle early spring, the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and the Visual Resources Association (VRA) held the 3rd joint conference from March 8th to 12th, 2016. It was the 44th Annual Conference of ARLIS/NA, and the 34th Annual Conference of VRA. The conference drew about 800 attendees from all over the world, including art librarians, visual resources curators, reference and instruction librarians, cataloging and metadata librarians, archivists, museum librarians and curators, publishers, students, and so on. The conference theme was Natural Connections.

Three librarians from Hawaii: Carol Hasegawa of the Honolulu Community College Library, Sachi Kawaiaea of the Honolulu Museum of Art Library, and Kanako Iwase of the UH Manoa Department of Art and Art History attended the conference. We thought it would be nice to share our experiences with the AHA members. We hope you will enjoy our post-conference reports.

Space Needle from the Olympic Sculpture Park on the only morning we saw blue sky.

Getting Connected: Visual Resources Thriving with New Technologies Kanako Iwase, Department of Art and Art History, University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (VRA member)

For those of you who have attended an ALA conference or other national conferences, mingling with 800 people might not sound unusual, but as a first-time attendee to a national conference, it was rather overwhelming. Nevertheless, the conference sessions, workshops and tours were extremely informative and inspirational—overall, a wonderful experience for me. In my report, I try to make links to the original resources as many as possible, so if you are interested in the latest trends in visual resources or art libraries, you can check out what was presented and discussed at the conference.

My first day started with some pleasant conversations with a couple of librarians over breakfast at the pre-conference THATcamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp). During THATcamp, where spontaneous conversations and taking initiatives are encouraged, I was able to propose a session titled “Visual Literacy and Digital Humanities”, and later became the moderator for the session. After familiarizing ourselves with the ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, we had some great brainstorming and discussions. Some people shared examples of visual literacy projects they conduct at their institutions, and demonstrated tools they use, such as SharedShelf and Omeka. We also discussed the importance of collaboration with faculty to improve visual literacy of students at academic institutions. The session notes are available here.

26833272325_445c6e5c53_kTHATcamp ecourages collaboration and participation (photo: Flickr)

Prior to the conference, I had two particular topics in mind about which I wished to learn: new technology in metadata such as Linked Data and tools for data migration; and how Visual Literacy is integrated with Digital Humanities technology in various institutions. THATcamp helped me deepen my knowledge about the latter topic.

Through other workshops about Linked Open Data and RDF,  as well as some posters at the Poster Session, I came back with a better understanding of these concepts. I am now excited about the new technology, which enables embedding complex relationships that artwork and digital images would have, such as “how” “where” “what” “belong to” or “used as”. It can still get too technical for me at times, but at least it was a good first step that I took to understand the Semantic Web in the context of visual resources.

The Convocation speaker was Sarah Bergmann, Director of the Pollinator Pathway. She gave an inspirational talk about her projects that respond to global transformation of natural landscape and cityscape. It was thought-provoking for many of us who are constantly thinking about pathways to connect our collections across disciplines, to users and the public.

On the last day of the conference, I joined the “Chinatown/International District, Wing Luke Museum, and Locke Library Tour.” I was impressed to see a museum and its library actively reaching out the community and connecting to the people in the neighborhood. Our knowledgeable tour guides recounted the colorful history of the well-preserved, authentic buildings where immigrants once lived. Seeing the museum exhibits, I learned about the unique and diverse qualities of Seattle’s Chinatown and the people who helped each other to survive. I highly recommend visiting the museum if you are in Seattle. A bonus was blooming cherry blossoms in a nearby park on a hill overlooking the city. (Photos from the conference can be viewed on Flickr).


Some of the sessions were recorded and are available at ARLIS/NA Learning Portal:

Some of the session notes from THATcamp are also available in Google Drive.

Seattle Public Library’s archive collection tour was conducted by Bridget Nowlin

Short essay: ARLIS/NA Seattle Conference 2016 Sachi Kawaiaea, Honolulu Museum of Art Library (ARLIS/NA member)

Emerald City, Rain City, Jet City (Boeing), Coffee City…  Seattle has many nicknames but what I often heard during my stay were – Microsoft, Amazon, and COSTCO.  In any case the city is changing and developing (by those companies),  yet beautiful and the perfect site for art librarians and museum professionals to get together and discuss for our future.

My 5-day ARLIS/NA conference summary: #sessions #committeemeetings #sharinginformation #enjoyartisanalespresso #exchangebusinesscards #runtothenextroom #museumtours #askingquestions #morecoffee #socialoccasionsintotheevening #cherrybloosm #mostbeautifullibrary #inspired.



Museum Division meeting, Getty Research Portal presentation, Solo Art Info Professional SIG were the three notable sessions at the conference site. Off-site tours were quickly filled by the participants and I was lucky to get in three of the exciting events. Needless to say, the off-site visits expanded my knowledge and my network deeply– and became the highlights of the 5-day conference indeed.

Since I became the museum librarian at Honolulu Museum of Art (then Honolulu Academy of Arts) four years ago participating in the national conference was one of the top priorities among my goals. I greatly enjoyed meeting, seeing, listening, talking, and eating in Seattle. It was only me from Hawaii as ARLIS/NA member! Because of the joint conference I could see familiar faces (Kanako and Carol), that was a bonus as the first-time conference attendee. I brought home an enormous amount of information and contacts.  I am working on how I can make good use of it and benefit the HoMA and myself professionally and personally. I already look forward to the next one and reunite new friends in February 2017. Anyone would like to join me?  #ArtsduMonde@neworlens.


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