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AMICO Logo ARCHIVEArt Museum Image Consortium: enabling educational use of museum multimedia
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AMICO Library User Group Meeting
Visual Resources Association Meeting
Houston, Texas,
April 9, 2003

In Attendance:

Chair, Jennifer Trant, AMICO

In Attendance: Kathe Hicks Albrecht, American University; Jennifer Faist, Art Center College of Design; Sheri Rosenzweig, Boston Architectural Center; Norine Duncan, Brown University; Janice Woo, California College of Arts and Crafts; Phyllis Pivorun, Clemson University; Mike Brugoni, Cleveland Museum of Art; Dustin Wees, Columbia University; Margaret Webster, Cornell University; Jacqueline Allen, Dallas Museum of Art; Brooke Cox, DePauw University; Amy Stidwill, Hillwood Museum & Gardens; Christina B. Updike, James Madison University; Heather Cleary, Otis College of Art & Design; Trudy Jacoby, Princeton; Gunter Weibel, Resch Libraries Group; Jolene M. de Verges, Smith College; Elisa Lanzi, Smith College; Corey Schultz, Stanford University; John Taormina, Duke University; Leigh Gates, The Art Institute of Chicago; Jeannine Keefer, The University of the Arts; Ben Kessler, University of Chicago; Jane Darcovich, University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign; Jane Goldberg, University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign; Wendy Holden, University of Michigan; Terry Kirby, University of Michigan; Susan Jane Williams, Yale University.

1. Review of Agenda
The meeting began with a welcome from Jennifer Trant, Executive Director of AMICO. She thanked everyone for coming and relayed AMICO’s hopes that regular meetings of AMICO Library Users will take place to ensure sharing of experiences among Users and a channel of feedback to AMICO. Trant noted that User meetings had already taken place this year at the College Art Association meeting in New York, and at the ARLIS-NA meeting in Baltimore.

Trant reminded people that as well as the User Group meetings, there are other means of communication AMICO and Users: the AMICO University Users List (, direct email to and the comments or feedback buttons available in various distributors’ applications. She also noted the Suggest A Work form, on the AMICO Public Web site, which was tailored specifically for requests for works of art to be added to The AMICO Library.

2. Introductions
All present introduced themselves, and noted their positions within their organizations. This was of interest, as many different people are involved in making the decision to acquire The AMICO Library for a campus and in supporting its users. It’s helpful for users to know who else has a role like theirs, and for AMICO to know how to target support materials.

3. Use of The AMICO Library
Trant them opened the floor for general discussion, asking those present to relay where and how they and others in their institution are using The AMICO Library. She also asked if there were things that AMICO could do, or products that AMICO could create, that would facilitate use of The AMICO Library. Trant reminded the group that The AMICO Library content was available through a number of different distributors with distinct interfaces, so some of the features or functions mentioned might not seem familiar. Three Distributors of The AMICO Library (Cartography Associates through Luna Insight, H.W. Wilson, and RLG will be present in the VRA exhibit hall, for users who want to take a look at other interfaces. Free trials are also available. To request one, please complete the form on the AMICO Website at

Wendy Holden, curator of Visual Resources Collections in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan began the discussion by noting that U of M had The AMICO Library available through their local Digital Library Service, so that it was accessible across campus, and was cross-searchable with all other on campus digital image resources available. She felt that The AMICO Library was used primarily by students, and that faculty use was not high. Perhaps more could be done to build ‘name recognition’. She was also exploring ways to incorporate information about AMICO Library content in to her local VR system, as another way of making it more immediately accessible to the Art History user community.

Susan Jane Williams of Yale empathized with this problem and wondered what strategies were being employed at Michigan to address the problem of collating information about works accessible in multiple sources. Wendy replied that at this point their exploration was still theoretical, and that they hadn’t actually begun moving materials.
John Taorima, Director of Visual Resources in the Department of Art & Art History at Duke University, noted that he was in the process of introducing both The AMICO Library and Luna Insight to faculty at his institution. While his faculty were also in the state of not knowing too much about AMICO he felt that it was his role to offer information sessions and to make them aware of the tools and resources at their disposal.

Susan Jane Williams asked what kinds of statistics were available reporting on the use of The AMICO Library. Jennifer Trant explained that all Distributors, as part of their contract with AMICO agree to provide User Statistics following the guidelines established by the International Consortium of Library Consortia (ICOLC). However, not all Distributors have this function up and running completely (Luna Insight, the platform in use at Yale, lags in this area.) Other Distributors, such as RLG, provide online access to statistics about the number of sessions, number of images retrieved, and number and type of searches. Users interested in this specification, can find it as part of the Distributor’s Specification, available from It is important for users to contact their Distributors and ask for statistics if they are not receiving the information they need about resource use.

Jane Darcovich of the University of Illinois, Chicago, noted that they had been RLG subscribers but had recently switched to the Luna Insight interface through Cartography Associates. She noted a widely-shared sentiment that faculty have difficulty rethinking their courses and investing the time necessary to use digital images. It seemed that the methods of digital teaching were still undefined. Comprehensiveness of a single resource is a problem; we’re drawing images from many different places. In the classroom, it’s often possible to use analog or digital images, in a single lecture, but not both. Often classrooms are not equipped for this kind of “multimedia”. This makes conversion to digital a challenge.

Margaret Webster of Cornell University felt that because The AMICO Library was a resource that was held by the University Library and not the Visual Resources Collection, Art History Department faculty were not very well aware of it. The Visual Resources Collections in the departments have built up longer- term relationships with users. Cornell gets The AMICO Library through RLG, and she felt that the Eureka Interface was easy and quick to use, and great as a tool to harvest images for other uses. However, the fact that there was no presentation tool was a problem for faculty adoption in teaching. Cornell also has Insight on campus, and they have found the learning curve to literacy quite steep, and perhaps not necessary for some kinds of casual users. Margaret was beginning to feel that there were many different kinds of users with different requirements and felt that the experience of two interfaces to The AMICO Library, validated the concept of different interfaces (or at least different kinds of functionalities) for different users as a way to meet different needs.

Gunther Weibel, who has recently joined the Research Libraries Group, noted that RLG is now investigating ways to support some kind of presentation software or courseware-like environment as part of its distribution service. RLG has struck an advisory group (including Tina Updike of James Madison University) to help them think through how best to implement this kind of tool, that has also been requested in association with the Cultural Materials database RLG offers. The Cultural Materials interface has additional functionality to the original Eureka interface (designed for the University Testbed in 1998!) RLG is now working towards the integration of The AMICO Library in the Cultural Materials environment.

Tina Updike, Visual Resource Specialist in the School of Art and Art History at James Madison University reported on their use of The AMICO Library in a local MDID implementation. JMU had initially loaded (selections from) the 1999 edition of The AMICO Library data, and images obtained on tape from RLG. However they hadn’t loaded high-resolution images for works distributed since 1999, because the tape distribution was no longer available from RLG and the process of clicking through to the screen where image ordering was possible seemed too laborious. Tina introduces The AMICO Library to her faculty when she teaches them about MDID and has several quite active faculty users.

John Taorima interjected that he felt that it was this kind of activity that was the responsibility of VR curators, to be sure that their user community was aware of the resources available to them.
Heather Cleary, Visual Resources Librarian in the Library/Visual Resource Collection at of Otis College of Art & Design, said that they had been exploring the possibility of switching their distributor to VTLS because of the capability of integrating The AMICO Library into their OPAC was an ‘off the shelf’ option with VTLS. Unfortunately, there were no VTLS users present, though others expressed interest in this way of ensuring people were aware of the resources of The AMICO Library.

Elisa Lanzi, Director of Image Collections at Smith College, relayed that at Smith they were using The AMICO Library with Insight from Cartography Associates. While it was great that Insight was supporting some cross-collection sharing, she felt that this it was necessary to bring some order to the chaos of large lists of groups and folders. (Helpfully Luna reported at their User group meeting held later the same day that this was coming in a future Insight release.) Elisa has been working with a faculty member at Smith to develop an online section of a Chinese Buddhist art survey course. The faculty member felt that there were places where the colour of the image in The AMICO Library was not correct (when compared to a slide available from the University of Michigan), and also questioned the attribution of the work. (Unfortunately the Insight application does not have the “Feedback” function available in RLG for example, that would provide, an immediate way to send this comment back to the museum). Elisa hoped that a forum for faculty/curator interchange would develop where this kind of information could be exchanged.

Others in the room agreed that more mechanisms to encourage interchange between users of The AMICO Library and those involved in its creation would be a good thing. Ben Kessler, Director of the Visual Resources Collection in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, noted that he felt that there were some cases where the images from particular institutions were uniformly “too dark”. Jennifer Trant encouraged him to share this information with AMICO, so that it could be addressed, noting that many AMICO Members are regularly improving the quality of both their visual and textual documentation in The AMICO Library.

Kessler also reported on an exchange he had with an AMICO Member about the use of visible watermarking on some images; the University of Chicago felt that this interfered with the educational use of these particular reproductions. Ben asked if others had similar reactions. The group agreed that visible watermarking was not ideal, however there was also consensus that it was better to have a visibly watermarked image than none at all. Trant was asked if many AMICO images were watermarked. She replied that visible watermarking was now rarely used by AMICO Members, and that some early images that had visible watermarking had been replaced. There were, however, several AMICO Members using invisible embedded watermarks. So far no comments have been received about these watermarks interfering with image use. Watermarks are not really encouraged by AMICO. However, this is a topic for concern among AMICO Members, and is regularly discussed by the AMICO Technical Committee.Two AMICO Members present at the Meeting, Jacqui Allen, Director of Libraries and Imaging Services at the Dallas Museum of Art, and Mike Brugnoni Department Support Specialist of the Cleveland Museum of Art, offered their reactions to User concerns about content in the Library and the possibility of more user input. Jacqui Allen welcomed the input of specialists and encouraged users to contact AMICO Members if they feel that a work is not properly documented. She noted that the quality of available documentation at museums depends on the acquisition date and the availability of staff knowledgeable in a particular area to conduct research. She urged specialists to share their knowledge with their colleagues in museums.

Mike Brugnoni of the Cleveland Museum of Art concurred. He encouraged people to send comments and corrections, as well as requests for new images, and noted that CMA was making 3-4 corrections per month to their documentation, based on user feedback

Several in the group wanted to stress that they felt that the availability of images in The AMICO Library was very good, and that they were pleased to have them. They felt it was important to note that having any image was better than not having one, and encouraged museums not to ‘hold back’ because of the perceived criticisms.

4. Improving use of The AMICO Library
Jennifer Trant asked the group for input into ways that we could improve the utility of The AMICO Library. Were there tools that AMICO could assist in developing, or things that we could do that would make the resource more accessible and useful?

Elisa Lanzi commented that ‘people love the notes’. These really helped users appreciate and understand the works, and made it possible to incorporate lesser known works in to their research and teaching.
Margaret Webster noted that often it was difficult to predict how images would be used, as instruction changing and images are being used in so many different ways. With different communities and requirements, came different needs for support. Campus-wide resources like The AMICO Library are a part of that change.
There was consensus that we need to work together to build awareness of The AMICO Library. Jennifer Trant reminded people of the materials available at AMICO for campus distribution, including brochures, posters, and the AMICO Update newsletter. Any of these materials can be requested by email to
Visual Resource curators also offered to send lists of faculty in their department who might benefit from receiving AMICO Update directly. These will be added to AMICO’s mailing list. AMICO will follow-up with a request for faculty to be added to our mailing list.

The use of CAAH as a place for making announcements about The AMICO Library was encouraged, as this is a venue specifically for art history faculty. The College Art Association annual meeting was also suggested as a venue.

Sheri Rosenzweig Visual Resources Librarian at the Boston Architectural Center noted that she would like to see more materials that related to architecture, landscape and landscape design and industrial design in The AMICO Library. She found that her faculty had success assigning classroom exercises with particular works, but that it was sometimes difficult to find materials that they were interested in. Faculty at the BAC had been successful, however, in using The AMICO Library as the oasis for classroom exercises based on particular works.
Jennifer Trant responded that improving the accessibility of materials already in The AMICO Library was a priority for the Editorial Committee, and that she would put these problems to them, for consideration at their spring meeting. Particularly, as there is more interest in industrial and graphic design, we might need to look at terminology that separates it from “Prints” and “Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects” the two object types in use now. Trant mentioned the strong industrial design collection from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. MIA collection of design.
Trant also noted that there are many historical photographs in The AMICO Library that could support the study of the history of architecture, but that these also are not well described to be searched by subject matter. Kay Arthur, a faculty member at James Madison University, was using 19th century photographys as a source for medieval architecture, particularly with reference to 19th century ‘restoration”. (Arthur was present at the CAA User Group meeting.) Others concurred that the strong collections of Photographs (from George Eastman House, the Center for Contemporary Photography and others were tremendous resources. These works are often hard to find.
Architectural drawings were suggested as an area that could be developed in The AMICO Library
The meeting wrapped up with a comment from Jolene de Verges of Smith College. She relayed excitement about the number of works in The AMICO Library that were not on display, at the museums, and felt this was a real strength of The AMICO Library.

Jennifer Trant closed the meeting with thanks to all for their time and opinions. She encouraged follow-up comments to herself personally, or to


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