Art and Architecture Slide Library

University of Michigan

Art & Architecture Slide Library

2106 Art & Architecture Building

2000 Bonisteel Boulevard

Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Our group visited the Art and Architecture Slide Library,
officially known as the Art and Architecture Library-Image Bank,
with the dual purpose of finding out:

We spoke to Dorothy Shields, the sole librarian in charge of the slide collection who, in addition to her duties as slide librarian, is also the selector for the urban planning materials for the Art and Architecture Library.


The Art and Architecture Library-Image Bank is located on North Campus on the third floor of the Art and Architecture building. Although they are connected administratively, the Library and the Image Bank are on different floors.

Target Audience

The target audience for the slide library are:

Collection Size

There are approximately 80,000 slides in the collection with 2,000 to 5,000 new slides added every year.

Most of the images are architecture-related (around three-quarters of the collection),
while the remaining one-fourth of the images are studio art related.

Loan Period

The public may use the slide library, but the four-hour loan period for slides tends to discourage public use, as does the location and physical arrangement of the library itself.

Collection Management

As previously stated, Shields manages the collection. Although she has access to student workers who do slide filing and other routine activities, she carries the main responsibilities for:


Hours of service are erratic at present, due to a vacancy in a part-time position, and Shields' own two-thirds time appointment.

Although they aim for 8:00-5:00, Monday-Friday hours, gaps exist in the schedule.

This fact may cause considerable access problems for extra-departmental users and visiting faculty, but Shields mentioned that all permanent Art and Architecture and Urban Planning faculty members have a key to the slide library, providing them with 24- hour access.

Physical Space

The facility consists of one long, windowless room; with modular metal slide cabinets lining three walls, and two work tables in the center of the room.

Close to the entrance are the reference desk and a card catalog and shelf list.

Restrictions on aisle width and storage cabinet heights of over 6 feet present obvious physical access barriers.

A move to more spacious quarters is planned for next year which will hopefully alleviate the physical access challenges.

Classification System

Each slide in the collection is given a call number, with a corresponding label attached to the slide, according to a classification scheme devised by Shields' predecessor and a long-time architecture professor. In designing the classification system, basic knowledge of the subject area was assumed. [1]

The classification system divides the slides first by art form. It arranges architecture alphabetically by country, then alphabetically by city or geographic area, then by building type within each city or geographic area.

It arranges all other art forms alphabetically by artist, anonymous works first and slides on technique last. Keeping the target audience in mind, the most detailed breakdowns are in the architectural slides.

The majority of slides follow this classification scheme, with one of the exceptions being the Muschenheim collection, a smaller group of slides donated by Professor Muschenheim with instructions that they must be housed separately from the rest of the collecion. These slides maintain the original classification that Muschenheim gave them, a combination of Roman and Arabic numerals.

Shields also mentioned the existence of several small, uncataloged collections of lantern slides, landscape architecture drawings with glass negatives, mounted photoprints, and architectural photographs, all of which are housed in the Rare Book Room, separate from the slide room proper.

Intellectual Access Issues

Because the classification system is primarily geographical and also depends on knowing specific building names, new users may have to reformulate their search strategy to locate slides in the collection.

For example, a person wishing images of "porticos" or "market places in Africa," would need to know the country, building type, and names of the buildings to locate slides. A search on MIRLYN for standard reference sources in the Art & Architecture Library usually provides more information to reformulate the search.

In addition, there may be some classification inconsistencies, as a building in Pasadena may be listed in that city or Los Angeles and no cross references are provided.


The card catalog can be used to locate a building name by accessing an architect's name. This catalog, however, has not been updated in the last eight years.

From that time on, records were and are still input into a stand alone ProCite database which was customized for the collection and now contains approximately 30,000 records. Searching can be done on an architect's name and other fields such as a building name. The search process may be slow and an exhaustive search may require searching on more than one field. A search can retrieve country, city, building type, building name, view, and call number of an individual slide.

Finding Aids

There are no finding aids. However, the librarian or an assistant is available during most of the day to assist users.

Tours are available four hours a day four days a week in September and by appointment during the rest of the year.

The slide room does not routinely use the "Art & Architecture Thesaurus" or the "Union List of Artist Names," although they might in the future as both will soon be available at the library on CD-ROM.

In general new slides are integrated into the collection using the existing classification system without much modification to that system. New geographical names may be added as needed, and for the break up of Eastern Europe, Germany and East Germany were combined.

Plans for the Future and New Technology


There are no plans to place slide catalog records on MIRLYN, primarily because they would overload the system and items would have to be individually selected for inclusion. The possibility of creating an MDAS file was raised but has not been developed as these files are primarily for non-U of M databases.

CD-ROM Project

One project in the immediate future is a 100 photograph CD-ROM which will support the 19th and 20th century architectural history courses. One noted advantage is that this product would provide five levels of resolution. Another plan is to streamline input into the ProCite database, and with the addition of "read only" technology, make this more widely available.

Digital Formats

In general there is some concern about digital formats. The faculty seems to prefer slides, even though they fade, as they believe that digital images have less edge sharpness and lower resolution.

There also are some questions about the new technologies needed to deliver digital images and how classrooms would be outfitted for these applications. Thirdly, there is concern about the copyright issues of making images more widely available.

Integrated Technology Instruction Center

The new ITIC (Integrated Technology Instruction Center), which will combine the Art & Architecture Library and the College of Engineering Library, will open the door to more fully grappling with these issues.

There are several other image collections at the Art & Architecture Library which may be reformatted and image databases on LAN's may be developed which can even be viewed in students' dorm rooms.

This merger may also develop new unforeseen applications of technology. However, there is no shared view on what the future priorities may be for formatting the collections or for organizing workflow to develop these applications. At the present time the current staff is overloaded with managing and updating existing collections.

Without these future oriented visions, the process of carrying out reformatting for new technologies may be slow. However, leadership is enthusiastic about the new merger and this enthusiasm may help plan and guide the school as it moves into its new technology center.


In conclusion, the use of slides in art classes at this site dates back many decades and the present classification system has been used successfully here for about 20 years. The faculty appear to be very comfortable with the existing system. The new technology center provides a new opportunity for the school and library to look at all the possibilities that may enable their collections to grow and to experiment with new technologies that may enhance access to these wonderful collections.

1 Bogar, Candace S. "Classification for an Architecture and Art Slide Collection,"
Special Libraries (Dec. 1975), pp. 570-574. aljames | bltaylor | jaheim | nscherer | perl | srhinton
updated 10/95
Copyright 1995, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.