Weeding and deaccessioning, or retaining, teaching collections of 35mm slides can seem a daunting challenge. Often such collections have been built over decades and they are a direct reflection of evolving curricula and the teaching choices of the home institution. Unlike traditionally published material, slides were often acquired directly from individual artists or scholars; museums, galleries, or related institutions and agencies; or, small- and large-scale vendors. Donations from traveling scholars, curators, faculty members, or photographers are not uncommon. In addition, slides were often created through in-house copy work—photographing directly from publications. No matter the source, the collected materials represent a significant investment of institutional funds and staff time, and should be deaccessioned only in the most considered and deliberate manner.
Many institutions are pressed for building space and may view collection space as valuable real estate that can be re-purposed. Administrators not fully involved in the development and use of 35mm collections may be unaware of their ultimate value as: 1) the film that was in the photographer’s camera when out in the field, 2) the difficult-to-find didactic images that were photographed out of a book to explain the context of a work of art or the design processes of architectural monuments, 3) the reflection of the institution’s curricular choices over time, or 4) a record of a campus’ or region’s history.
In 2014, the VRA’s Slide and Transitional Media Task Force (STMTF) developed “Guidelines for the Evaluation, Retention, and Deaccessioning of 35mm Slide Collections in Educational and Cultural Institutions” to raise awareness of the issues associated with reducing or disposing of 35mm slide teaching collections. In addition to discussing issues such as the value of analog materials, sources, condition, use, and primary stakeholders, the guidelines also provide general and specific suggestions for evaluating and weeding visual materials, for possible re-uses, and ways to locate new homes. Three samples of institutional guidelines are provided in an appendix.
Later in 2014, the STMTF conducted a survey to gather information about the current status of both 35mm slide collections and Visual Resources facilities. We were interested in learning how many VR collections were completely intact vs completely dissolved, how many had been transformed or closed, and what forces drove the decisions either way. We wanted to know what criteria respondents used in culling or retaining slides, what happened to the slides after culling, and who was doing, and recording, the work.
The STMTF determined that it would be of great utility to VRA if the membership might be willing to share their practical experiences with 35mm slides or other visual materials and associated equipment’s dispersal, reuse, recycling, or disposal. In this way, we hoped to collect the actual experiences of others in the form of concise, candid reports. The initial case studies that were included with the Guidelines document were viewed as very beneficial to our members. The Task Force put out a call for Case Studies in the fall of 2015 and the responses received thus far are compiled below.
- Brown University, History of Art & Architecture Art Slide Library (PDF)
- Missouri State University, Art & Design Dept. (PDF)
- Pacific Northwest College of Art (PDF)
- Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Art History Visual Resources Center (PDF)
- University of New Mexico, Bunting Visual Resources Library (PDF)
- Wright State University, Dept. of Art and Art History (PDF)
- Worcester Art Museum (PDF)
Case Study Template (Word doc)
The Task Force thanks these members for generously sharing their insight and encourages others to add their experiences to this list of Case Studies by completing the template below and emailing it to Jacob Esselstrom (STMTF Chair).
Slide Reuse and Recycling
The STMTF compiled a list of organizations and businesses that accept 35mm slides and/or slide storage and projection equipment for reuse or recycling. The list is arranged geographically, corresponding to VRA’s Chapters. The list will continue to grow as members discover and share more options for the disposal of deaccessioned slides, and the Task Force encourages you to share your findings for addition by emailing them to Jacob Esselstrom (STMTF Chair).