With the pre-conference seminars and workshops now but fond memories, the ASIS&T conference proper got underway on Sunday, and your intrepid representative from Team Dewey decided to indulge an interest in subject access to visual resources by checking out a pair of sessions organized by SIG-VIS -- the Special Interest Group on Visualization, Images, and Sound. In the first, Paul Roy from Arius 3D demonstrated hardware and software for scanning and visualizing digital images of three-dimensional objects, and other panel members described studies of the various ways in which such technology is being used to enhance the level and quality of access to information about cultural, educational, and scientific resources. Speakers in the second session explored the roles that collections of digital representations of museum artifacts play in the lives of museum visitors. Paul Marty (Florida State University) presented the results of a survey of visitors' opinions which demonstrated that the relationship between a physical museum and its digital counterpart is typically complex, and (for instance) that visitors very strongly prefer to satisfy certain of their interests by interacting with one or the other. Ken Hamma (J. Paul Getty Trust) showed how museums can engage the attention of younger visitors by providing online access to collections through virtual communities such as Whyville; and Layna White (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and Anne Gilliland (University of California, Los Angeles) summarized what researchers working on the Museums and Online Archives Collaboration (MOAC) project have learned about educators', students', and museum professionals' use of online information about museum objects.
Two of the themes that emerged from the discussion are, first, the awareness of a convergence in the descriptive practices of librarians, archivists, and curators, such that professional staff of all three kinds of institutions are increasingly recognizing the benefits of close collaboration on projects in the field of cultural informatics -- to the extent that LAM (libraries, archives, museums) is now one of the more common acronyms in use at this conference; and second, the promise of collaborative indexing systems that allow users of digital collections to assign their own labels to representations of cultural resources. In the final talk of the second session, Hsin-liang Chen (University of Texas at Austin) asked whether the positive reception of initiatives such as the Cleveland Museum of Art's Personal Collections project was indicative of a paradigm shift in our understanding of how objects are best described. Ken Hamma followed up this point with a tantalizing reference to a new project in which the Getty Museum will be exposing its collections of digital images for harvesting by other services, with the intention that those third-party services may then choose either to provide users with access to Getty-supplied metadata or to create and offer access to new, community-specific descriptions and indexing.