BCdia: Boston College Digital Images of Art
Each year, a handful of intrepid instructors from departments other than Fine Arts find their way to the fourth floor of Devlin, and to the Visual Resources Collection’s Slide Library. Those who do are often surprised to find more than 100,000 35-millimeter slides documenting the history of art and architecture. Over the course of many decades, we have developed this collection to support the teaching needs of the Fine Arts Faculty. Many of the same images satisfy the occasional needs of faculty from other departments such as History, English, Theology and Romance Languages.
Although instructors from throughout the University might find the Slide Library’s holdings useful, those accustomed to the extended hours of (and the liberal borrowing privileges accorded to them by) the University Library may find the Slide Library’s more restrictive policies unfamiliar. Funded and staffed as a departmental resource, and devoted to the teaching needs of the Fine Arts faculty, the Slide Library welcomes instructors from other Boston College departments by appointment only. Moreover, because it is organized for an expert user group (and, for the most part, is not searchable by means of a database), the collection can be difficult to navigate for those new to its particular features. “Outside” users may borrow slides for only a few hours at a time, and, should conflicting needs arise, Fine Arts faculty members have priority. And the collection is unavailable to students, except those in a few upper-level Fine Arts seminars.
Thanks to changing technology and a fruitful partnership with the University Library, however, the
Donato Bramante: The Tempietto (begun 1502), San Pietro in Montorio, Rome. Photograph copyright Stephanie Leone.
Visual Resources Collection can now share digital resources with all members of the University community, and also make it easier for non-experts to find art images. BCdia – Boston College Digital Images of Art – recently became available to all members of the University community, 24/7, from any on-campus desktop computer. You can search for images of art objects and monuments much as you do for books in the Library’s online catalog – by using keyword searches, or by searching on specific criteria such as the artist’s name, the title or location of the work, or the type of object. If you find something that interests you, you can view the image – either as a standard JPEG, or as a high-resolution image that allows much closer examination of the object depicted. You may select specific records — with links to the images — to save during your current session; registered users can save and organize records for future use.
The Boston College Libraries soon will be upgrading to the newest version of DigiTool, the software through which the library manages and distributes BCdia and other digital collections. Version 3 will allow registered users to save records in what DigiTool calls “My Space” folders. Records in My Space folders may be shared with others (for instance, students or colleagues), and it is also possible to upload images from other sources and integrate them into a My Space folder. Moreover, the new version of DigiTool will provide built-in viewers for classroom display of images. Of course, there are other viewing options — users may download JPEG images from BCdia for display using presentation programs such as PowerPoint or ARTstor’s Offline Image Viewer, or create links from their own web or WebCT pages to specific images in BCdia.
BCdia currently contains over 2300 images of art and architecture, primarily of the Western world. An initial grant enabled the Visual Resources Collection to jump-start its digital library with a purchase of two large sets of digital images – the first corresponding to objects illustrated in a standard history of Western art textbook, and the second to an Italian Renaissance art textbook. We have since supplemented these initial images with smaller sets of contemporary architecture, and additional images of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture as photographed by members of the Fine Arts faculty. As a result, BCdia is now especially rich in this area. As increasing numbers of vendors and photographers make digital images available, we will continue to develop the collection, both broadening and deepening its coverage.
The resources in BCdia complement those available through the Library’s subscription to ARTstor. With over 300,000 images, ARTstor is far larger than BCdia. But since BCdia is a Boston College collection, we have more control over its content, and can focus collection development to support our curriculum and the specific needs of our faculty.
The Fine Arts Department welcomes the opportunity to share BCdia with the University community as a result of our partnership with the University Library. But BCdia is only one example of an exciting revolution in resource sharing made possible by means of technology. Nearly every department at Boston College houses unique resources that can enhance the teaching or research activities of faculty members and students elsewhere in the University – or even outside of it. The University Library’s information-management experts help us liberate these resources from their local confines, and advance scholarship by building bridges among our ivory towers.
Curator of Visual Resources, Fine Arts Department
More information about BCdia
Link to BCdia