Fellow Reflection: Gayle Schechter

This  reflection on the 2019 Visual Resources Association conference was written by Gayle Schechter (@akaGladys), who attended with support from a DLF GLAM Cross-Pollinator Registration Award.

Gayle is the Digital Exhibitions Coordinator for the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library. Her primary responsibilities include building and maintaining the GLAM Center’s digital portal (http://glam.auctr.edu/), creating thematic digital exhibits, and leading faculty and student workshops which facilitate the Center’s mission to provide training in object-based learning while increasing the accessibility and discoverability of AUC resources.

Gayle currently serves on the Local Arrangements committee for Society of Georgia Archivists and as Vice Chair of SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals section. She holds an M.S. in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management from Simmons College and a B.S. in Information Systems & American History from SUNY Empire State College.

As an early career library/archives professional constantly on the hunt for professional development opportunities, I was thrilled to be awarded DLF’s GLAM Cross-Pollinator Registration Award to attend the annual Visual Resources Association conference this year in Los Angeles. Prior to attending, my knowledge of who VRA are and what they do was admittedly limited. Coming from an archives background, I’d heard of the VRA Core description standard, but I’ve primarily been involved with professional archives organizations like SAA and Society of Georgia Archivists. Given that my current position as Digital Exhibitions Coordinator at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library requires me to work with a variety of digitized images of artwork and other cultural heritage materials, attending VRA 2019 sounded like an excellent opportunity to broaden my knowledge of visual resource management as well as connect with other professionals engaged in similar work. I’m pleased to report that my experience at VRA 2019 exceeded my expectations.

Given that my current position as Digital Exhibitions Coordinator at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library requires me to work with a variety of digitized images of artwork and other cultural heritage materials, attending VRA 2019 sounded like an excellent opportunity to broaden my knowledge of visual resource management as well as connect with other professionals engaged in similar work.

Given the geography of VRA membership (they even have an international chapter), I expected a large and overwhelming crowd; however, I was pleasantly surprised by the intimate nature of the conference. Smaller panels and special interest group sessions allowed for in-depth conversations about projects and best practices. I learned a lot about different tools used in the burgeoning area of GIS mapping in the digital humanities during the session Mapping New Vistas: Employing Emerging Technologies Into Your Visual Resource Services. The presentation, Ed Ruscha’s Streets of LA: A lesson in digitizing, organizing and presenting visual information at the Getty, from Getty Research Institute staff on their large-scale digitization of Ruscha’s photography provided an enlightening look at the challenges and unexpected benefits of digitization as well as the technologies available to assist with projects of this magnitude. In terms of direct application to the work I do at AUC’s Woodruff Library, I’m eager to try out the approaches spoken about during the Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities special interest group meeting and the session, Teaching Visual Literacy as an Evolving Discipline.

Along with the excellent panels and lightning talks I was able to attend, I met many wonderful visual resources professionals and students while at VRA 2019. I would like to thank DLF with affording me the opportunity to branch out and attend this conference. It was a welcoming and enlightening experience, and I look forward to becoming a member of VRA and keeping up with what VRA does in the years to come!