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College of Arts and Architecture Launches Searchable Photo Archive

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Yadin Flammer, Carolyn Lucarelli, and Catherine Adams work on ResourceSpace.

After three years of planning and design, the College of Arts and Architecture is pleased to announce the launch of a public, searchable photo archive of images from within the college. The online photo archive, Arts and Architecture Resource Collaborative (AARC), is the product of a partnership among the College of Arts and Architecture Alumni and Communications Office, the Visual Resources Centre (VRC), and Arts and Architecture Information Technology (AAIT).

“This is a milestone for how we share content,” explained Stephanie Swindle Thomas, public relations specialist and photographer for the college. “So many people ask me to send them a picture I’ve just taken at an event, like graduation, or contact me about a picture I took several years ago. Now, they can go directly to this site and see everything we have.”

AARC features images provided by multiple photographers with search criteria customized for the college, including department names, keywords, proper names, and dates. Through a series of focus groups with key users and uploaders, the AARC team built a robust metadata structure, providing easy access and user-friendly instructions for searching and uploading images. In comparison with Box, AARC provides users with an interface that is designed for searching and viewing images (with size options for downloading and other information provided by the uploaders, including photo credits and permissions).

“As information and image management professionals in the VRC, we are thrilled to be a part of this collaboration. A digital asset management implementation such as AARC has the potential to transform workflows for managing, preserving, and distributing digital content throughout the college,” said Carolyn Lucarelli, curator of visual resources for the VRC and one of the primary partners in the project.

Lucarelli, whose experience with digital assets includes working as an assistant museum librarian in the Photograph and Slide Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Catherine Adams, assistant curator of visual resources, will manage the assets in AARC and assist in monitoring and adding search criteria to content within the system. 

Thomas, Lucarelli, and Adams’ working relationship started in 2008 when Thomas worked for the VRC as a graduate student. In 2014, they discussed the benefits of a searchable database and began working with Yadin Flammer, AAIT systems administrator, to test different software and find the best solution. After several trials, the group selected ResourceSpace, Open Source Digital Asset Management (DAM) software. Creating a system using free software saved money but also required the knowledge and support of AAIT for implementation.

“Working on this project has been challenging but a great learning experience for both Carolyn and myself,” said Flammer. “This was a unique need that falls between IT and digital curation and we each had to learn a lot about the other side to get where we are. Setting up the system was easy. Tailoring the interface, metadata, and other features to the needs of the college (sometimes at odds with the software design), that was the hard work, but I'm looking forward to seeing it in production!”   

Flammer’s expertise in systems administration and willingness to work with ResourceSpace support provided in-house service that would have cost thousands of dollars. AARC is also hosted on-site by AAIT servers, another cost-effective way of maintaining assets.

“We were fortunate to have the support of AAIT, and we are deeply grateful to Scott Lindsay (AAIT director), and to Yadin for his dependable assistance at every step of the way,” noted Lucarelli.

Contributors are currently uploading images from their personal archives in preparation for the start of the fall semester and AARC’s official launch on Wednesday, September 13, 2-4 p.m. in the Jury Space on the first floor of the Stuckeman Family Building. The launch will feature demonstrations by team members and interactive work stations where users will be able to test and familiarize themselves with the software.  

“I think it’s going to be an invaluable resource – not just for the communicators in the college, but everybody. It’s great that it is available to everyone and that everyone can share the photos that they have taken as well,” said Tammy Hosterman, communications coordinator, School of Visual Arts. “I have the experience of usually taking pictures myself, but having to track down photographs someone else took will be so much easier in this central location. I’m excited to start using it.”

Hosterman was one of the focus group participants who provided feedback throughout the design process. Other focus group members include photographers Alex Bush, Cody Goddard, and Michael Palmer, communicators Scott Tucker, Cheri Sinclair, Erik Baxter, Christie Clancy, Russell Bloom, Michelle Bixby, and Kendall Mainzer, department heads Eliza Pennypacker and Mehrdad Hadighi, and faculty member Peter Aeschbacher. The AARC team’s diligence in crafting the best infrastructure possible required listening to the needs and wants of different types of users and plenty of time testing and updating the system. 

“I’m relieved and absolutely ecstatic that we have launched AARC! This project wouldn’t have happened without the support of the college, particularly Joyce Hoffman (director of alumni and communications) and Andy Schulz (associate dean for research), who saw the value in our team spending time and resources on it,” explained Thomas. “We’re looking forward to sharing it with our colleagues.”

Take a tour of AARC: aarc.arts.psu.edu.