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The AMICO Library User Group Meeting
College Art Association Conference
New York, NY
February 22, 2003


Kirk Alexander, Princeton University
Susan Altman, Middlesex Community College
Kay Arthur, James Madison University
Gerald Clark
Ben Kessler, University of Chicago
Joy Kestenbaum, Purchase College, SUNY
Elisa Lanzi, Smith College
Sarah Legins, Clemson University
Amy Lucker, Harvard University
Kathy Martinez, Harvard University
Michael May, University of Alberta
Morgan Paine, Florida Gulf Coast Community
Carol Terry, Rhode Island School of Design
Esther Thyssen, Sage Colleges.

Distributors and AMICO Staff

Susan Taylor, Research Libraries Group
Nancy Harm, Luna Imaging
Jennifer Trant, AMICO Executive Director
David Bearman, AMICO Director of Strategy and Research
Scott Sayre, AMICO Director of Member Services
Kris Wetterlund, AMICO User Services

Kris Wetterlund welcomed the group and introduced herself as new AMICO User Services Staff. Kris’s background is working in art museum settings to help K-12 teachers use technology in their classrooms. She mentioned that she was looking forward in building on this experience to create services that would help university and college faculty use technology in the form of The AMICO Library in their classrooms.

The meeting began with a round table discussion of how The AMICO Library is currently being used by those attending the meeting. Kris asked what could be offered to support use of AMICO in the form of User Services.

Kay Arthur (James Madison) shared with the group the discoveries she has made teaching Gothic Architecture with early photographic resources from The George Eastman House in The AMICO Library. Comparing the 19th century photographs with present day ones allowed her to show the evolutions of buildings and the impact of restoration. Using The AMICO Library, Kay said, “I discover things I would never have found” using traditional sources. The group agreed that one of the most exciting things about The AMICO Library is the unexpected images found by instructors and students.

Kay felt that the breadth of material available in The AMICO Library was also helpful in other contexts. Problematic works provided good examples for discussion in upper-level seminars. Students are also able to find little known works of art that might have a topical or local resonance for them, because, for example, they are in the student’s hometown. “Suddenly,” she said “snap, you’ve got their attention” because it relates to something they know already. The AMICO Library also provides a great source of “Unknown” works to use on exams. Kay also mentioned listing The AMICO Library as a resource for student research projects.

Susan Altman, (Middlesex Community College) uses The AMICO Library as a source in a research project in her Renaissance and Modern introductory class. The group is assigned a research project that results in the creation of an ‘exhibition’ and its accompanying catalog. The students use the digital images from The AMICO Library as they design their exhibition. They have access to many more works than they might otherwise have had, and now, with access from home, another barrier to their creative use of the content is lifted.

Kirk Alexander (Princeton) mentioned that The AMICO Library was being used in History and Media Studies as well as in Art History.

Elisa Lanzi (Smith) reported strong interest at Smith College, and cited in particular a student paper on “Art and Death” that wouldn’t have been possible - – or would have been a lot more difficult – without The AMICO Library.

Joy Kestenbaum (Purchase) reported that she had been teaching a course in Art Librarianship at CUNY Queens Graduate School of Library and Information Science where she had use The AMICO Library as a key resource for the electronic component.

A discussion was held about teaching with The AMICO Library live on the Internet versus downloading images into a presentation platform. The group recommended downloading those images used in class as an overall strategy

Several in attendance – including Ben Kessler (University of Chicago), Kirk Alexander and a number of MDID users have their own software in place to allow instructors to present images in university-designed interfaces.

Amy Luker (Harvard) explained that Harvard is exploring this option because they wanted to provide their users with a single view of images resources available, rather than require them to consult many different resources This cross-searching is a critical utility. While IT staff at some institutions can clear an access path to enable live access, most agreed that using presentation interfaces that were not live was the least risky way to go. In general it was agreed that more user management tools, such as those that allowed instructors to “take away” presentations, were desirable, whether they were provided by AMICO Distributors or by software designed by universities.

Susan Taylor of RLG reported that they plan to offer the AMICO Library via the interface used for RLG Cultural Materials when the next edition of the AMICO Library is made available, and hope to support cross-searching of the two collections at sometime in the future. Nancy Harm noted that with the Luna Insight platform offered by Cartography Associates it was possible to search multiple collections. Users present were interested in knowing more about the various features offered by different Distributors. Scott Sayre reported on a study that has begun at AMICO and that we hope will tell us more in the future about the functions required by users of networked cultural resources.

Integration of works from The AMICO Library into local systems is still a challenge. Kirk Alexander requested, for example, that the JPG header fields be used by Distributors to carry the data about the work of art depicted (so that the image always came with its cataloguing). Others felt that easy ways to integrate network-accessible content into courseware environments like Blackboard or WebCT were becoming more important.

Others mentioned the problem of having to re-size images to fit local needs. For example, the MDID sizes and the pre-sampled sizes in the RLG distribution are not identical. It was agreed, however, that this was a moving target and that expectations are rising with technological capabilities.

Users with data in their local systems were reminded that The AMICO Library is a dynamic resource, and that the data in it changes and is updated, both with new works every year and with updates (often weekly). If data is loaded into a local system, provision needs to be made for managing these changes in information.

Several attendees questioned future additions to The AMICO Library, and had specific requests for material they needed to teach or to fulfill faculty requirements. Everyone was encouraged to use the “Suggest a Work” form on the AMICO Web site to communicate these needs to AMICO Members. Ben Kessler requested that the “Suggest a Work” form on the AMICO Web site be simplified, so that he didn’t have to always fill in his contact information every time. (A quick fix for this suggested: allowing his browser to auto-complete that part of the form for him.) In commenting on the development of The AMICO Library, he offered the metaphor of AMICO as a grocery store. The grocery store may or may not have all the ingredients you require, “but you still have to go home and cook,” inferring that it is the universities job to assemble all of the ingredients for successful teaching, and the job of the instructor becomes creating meaning for students from those ingredients.

Kay Arthur recommended Archeological museums, and several in the group expressed the desire to see more European museums added as AMICO Members. The National Gallery (Washington DC) was identified as a most desired American addition. Attendees wondered what factors stood in the way of a museum joining AMICO. Jennifer Trant and David Beaman (AMICO) explained the nature of AMICO Membership, with much depending on a museum’s ability to appreciate the demand from universities who use their material. If users of AMICO share the ways in which they use the Library and ways they want to use it, museums would better understand their need to become involved in AMICO to address user requirements. Amy Lucker formerly of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, outlined the large investment of time and capital that a museum must take on in order to digitize its material. Many museums – like many universities --– are not yet ready to take on projects of this scope, but they will be in the future.

Jennifer Trant encouraged all those present to communicate with their colleagues at museums that they would like to have become AMICO Members. Knowing that users see a difference between having something on the Web and in The AMICO Library, and that they want museums to participate, can help make the case.

The group was asked if any present had training programs for faculty. Elise Lanzi reported that their Visual Resources Staff has become more and more of a training resource and that they have developed a training program. Elisa observed that often awareness is as big an issue as training, and thanked AMICO for the AMICO Update newsletter summarizing what we’re about in bite-sized bits. (Anyone interested in adding faculty names to the mailing list or who would like additional copies should contact Kris at

At Princeton, students serve as trainers, and work with instructors in their own classroom one on one. The model of a group of instructors attending training sessions together in a classroom hasn’t worked at Princeton. Harvard has begun to realize that faculty want technical support from the Library, and while they haven’t provided it in the past they are going to develop programs in this area soon. Ben Kessler stressed the importance of campus-wide support for teaching with technology, and encouraged everyone to find out what was available outside their department and take advantage of it.

At Clemson, where Visual Resources is part of the Library, training is coordinated with other needs across the campus. Michael May (University of Alberta) reported that they are finding that training hasn’t been a major impediment to use. Indeed, students there are raising the expectations in the department. Having had a course in Canadian Art History taught digitally, students expect the same access to other materials.

AMICO would like to recognize the investment made by faculty as they develop strategies for teaching with technology. It is also important to communicate the successes people have had with integrating new methods into their pedagogy. We’d like to offer an award for innovative use of The AMICO Library by instructors in their curriculum at subscribing institutions. Our current concept is to provide CAA Conference Registration for one instructor for next year’s conference.

The group recommended that those who had been part of AMICO since its inception serve on a jury, as well as a museum representative. The group also recommended that award submissions be presented in a panel on innovative use of technology in the classroom at next year’s conference, so that all AMICO users could benefit from examples of innovative use of the Library. We hope that CAA will be involved in sponsoring and crafting the award and it will be announced in CAA publications as well as the AMICO Users Listserv and the AMICO Web site (

AMICO staff present thanked everyone for finding time in their busy CAA schedule to share their experiences with The AMICO Library. Kris promised to share what she’d learned with AMICO Members and said we’re looking forward to further conversations.

Kris encouraged anyone with ideas about how AMICO can facilitate use of The AMICO Library to contact her at


In June of 2005, the members of the Art Museum Image Consortium voted to dissolve their collaboration. This site remains online for archival reasons.