School of Art digitizes slides for professors and students

Leslie Cusano

Michael Sanata, graduate art history major, enters data into MDID in the slide library in the Art Building. The process is about 25 percent done and will be finished in summer of 2009.


Credit: DKS Editors

The five people working on the School of Art Image Library Digitization project have scanned more than 10,000 images so far – and they’re not even halfway finished.

Reneé Roll, graduate student and Stark campus adjunct professor, is the project coordinator. The goal of the project is to scan all the slides in the art image library and enter them in an electronic database by summer 2009.

Out of the approximately 130,000 slides in the slide library, about 50 percent will be scanned, said Roll.

“We have a lot of duplicates because the film has degraded in some, and also because we’ve had more than one copy of really famous works,” Roll said. “We’re about 20 to 25 percent of the way there with the conversion.”

Christine Havice, director of the School of Art, said that the project was first discussed in August 2003 after Kodak said it would no longer make slide carousels.

“As technology becomes more widespread, we knew people were thinking about it,” she said.

In late August 2006, the School of Art hired Roll as project coordinator to handle the conversion.

“Slides are going away and digital images are going to be the standard for teaching,” Havice said.

Roll said she spent the first three or four months creating digitizing standards for the project, like determining scanning methods, doing quality assessments and establishing cataloguing guidelines. The scanning process began in the following February.

Michael Sanata, art history graduate student, began working on the project as a cataloguer in August 2007. He said after the images are scanned into the computer, it’s his job to research the work’s year, country of origin, period, description, dimensions, materials used and other data.

“The most difficult part is searching for the information and determining if you trust sources,” Sanata said. “I avoid Wikipedia like the plague.”

Sanata said he spends about 15 to 20 minutes researching each work, then fills in the data on Madison Digital Image Database, the software program being used to catalogue the images.

“Digital slides actually help professors prepare quicker, because lots of traditional slides are old and damaged,” he said. “Plus, they give students a better feel for the art.”

Roll said the digital slides have many advantages, including ease of use, MDID’s ability to create slideshows and enhanced classroom presentation.

“Very basic information could be broadcast ahead of time,” she said. “Then, class time becomes more interactive.”

In addition, Roll said she hopes having the slides available to students through Vista will cause a dramatic rise in students’ grade point averages.

However, despite the convenience of digital slides, Roll said that film still “gives richness and conveys texture in a manner that digital doesn’t.” She also said that though the projection equipment is not up to date, she hopes to see an upgrade soon.

Navjotika Kumar, assistant professor of modern and contemporary art, has been using the digital images since she came to Kent in Fall 2007. She said she prefers the quality and convenience of digital images.

“MDID is just fantastic,” she said. “It’s designed by art historians, for art historians.”

Kumar also said she is pleased with the way the project is developing.

“The way in which we’re building it is one of the most sophisticated models I’ve seen,” Kumar said. “I’m very pleased and confident it will reflect positively on the School of Art and the University.”

Contact School of Art and VCD reporter Leslie Cusano at[email protected].