History of our profession
People Who Made Visual
Visual Resources Librarian at
University of California,
Santa Cruz, who developed
the Universal Slide Classification
Luriane Tansey, receiving a
from Betty Jo Irvine, at the ARLIS/NA
San Francisco, 1992
From Luraine’s unpublished,
“The Artistic (and Sometimes Irreverent) Vitae of Luraine Collins
by Bette Antrim
Resume / Awards
Born. Manhattan, KS, moved to
Reno after being marooned on train in middle of Salt Lake with
tracks washed out aft & before for twelve hours…
To those of us who know and love Mrs. Richard Tansey (as Luraine
most likes to be called) this quote is typical: unexpected (and
always interesting) comment and inevitably fun (and funny). In
addition the vitae is filled with references to her lifelong love
of art and the world that surrounds it.
Age 9. Earned first camera by
selling perfume, Hawkeye Box by Kodak.
Ages 16-21. Student, BA, Art History, UC Berkeley and MA, Mills
College , Photography.“
Ages 24-26, Arts & Crafts worker in army hospitals during WWII.”
the above document, one of her entries noted that her starting
salary as a librarian was $1.95. This was unacceptable to Luraine
Tansey-- for herself and for her colleagues. From then on she
lobbied to change that and other inequitable working situations for
art librarians and slide curators alike. Luraine accomplished this
daunting task by exemplifying the unique professional aspects of our
profession and, incidentally, exposing the inequities of librarians
in the art field as she presented lectures and workshops around the
Luraine Tansey was one of the
organizers of librarians’ groups in California in the early ‘60s,
helping plan meetings to be held at venues such as California’s
College Art Association (CAA) meetings, working towards her dream
for a national group. She regularly attended CAA national
conferences where she actively pursued the support of attending
faculty for a CAA-recognized, but separate, organization for art
librarians and curators. In Luraine’s writings she mentions how
encouraged she was when Wolfgang Freitag concurred that envisioning
an international organization, as well as local and national, was an
important goal. Today we know those efforts as the Art Libraries
Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and Visual Resources Association
(VRA), both with international membership.
Tansey is best known for the
1969 publication, A universal slide classification system with
automatic indexing, co-authored with Wendell Simons. (It’s 1970
re-publication title is A slide classification system for the
organization and automatic indexing of interdisciplinary collections
of slides and pictures.) She had been inspired to make the creation
of a universal system of slide classification her thesis topic from
observing problems as she worked at various library and slide
collections through the years. On one occasion, for instance, she
had attempted to assist a frustrated speaker find a necessary slide
for his soon-to-be-presented lecture! He had assumed he knew just
where to find his slide since he was familiar with the system at his
campus, but could not. Luraine, who was also a visitor to this
particular slide collection, had not actually used the system but
was familiar with it. By using her library skills, she soon realized
that the system utilized different cataloguing strategies for
teaching vs. museum situations. Then and there, she dreamed of
devising a universal system familiar to one and all. She says her
book has always been in the public domain, meaning anyone can use
any parts of it, and on meeting Tansey the first words you will most
likely hear are, “...and how can I help you?”
Working at the slide library at the University of California. Santa
Cruz at the time she had discovered she had other objectives as
well—a classification system that could be easily produced on a
slide label and understood by slide filers. Following is an excerpt
from an interview recorded in 1992 with Mrs. Tansey at her St.
Helena, CA country home and studio:
At the time I started in slide librarianship...I found it necessary
to do repetitive typing and, being a very lazy person, wanted to
avoid doing repetitive typing. Computers were available—mainframes
to start with—and so I thought if I took in a slide and automated it
right off and just pushed a button to get duplicates, to get the
slide labels, the lists, the orders, the statistics, the
cross-referencing that would be quite a boon to the graduate
students and then they could get along with their studies and
learning their slides.
With publication of her book,
the system was put in place for cataloguing and slide label
production for the mainframe computer then at use at UCSC where she
was librarian for several years in the late ‘60s-early ‘70s. It is
still used at UC Santa Cruz, though modified for more advanced
technology, and at institutions around the world. The system
immediately gained praise in the library and art history worlds.
Because of its popularity and acceptance at educational
institutions, museums and even in industry (IBM asked her to design
a system especially for them), Luraine was invited to speak and give
seminars at locations around the globe such as the International
Congress of Art History in Budapest (1968) and Granada (1971),
Special Libraries section on Music Iconography at Copenhagen (1971)
on music in art history, and at the Ibero-American University in
Mexico City (1972) Tansey gave a 2 day seminar on computerized slide
collections. Lectures were also given in Manitoba, Victoria, and
Vancouver, Canada, AIA Chicago, and San Francisco and SLA in Kansas
and Detroit during the years 1969-1975. Of the Budapest lecture
Tansey related in a 1992 interview that:
I went to Budapest where some of my fellow librarians had translated
a summary of my speech on slide classification, automated on
computer into four languages so the audience had summaries of my
speech as I showed the slides. It was well written up and received
over quite a large European area.”
Luraine Tansey used all these
opportunities to promote her agenda for librarians and slide
curators. Even after her “official retirement” from teaching art
history at San Jose City College in 1984, she supported her goals
through membership and active participation in Canadian Art
Historians, ALA SIA, CAA, ARLIS and VRA. And she continued to assist
her husband, Dr. Richard Tansey, and his colleague in their five
revisions of Gardner’s Art Through the Ages as she had done since
1969; providing the best illustrations she could find and preparing
indices to the books for easier access to the materials and
images—always remembering the needs of art and slide librarians.
Tansey’s success in achieving status and security for our
professions was recognized by both ARLIS/NA and the Visual Resources
Association in the same year. In 1993 she was awarded the highest
honor of these professional organizations, the Distinguished Service
Award. VRA further recognized her pioneering efforts by instituting
the Luraine Tansey Travel Award Dinner as one of their highlight
events at the annual conference (as of 2004 it will be renamed the
Luraine Tansey Education Award Dinner). Luraine is as proud of the
recipients of the awards, as the winners themselves, and likes to
keep abreast of their careers.
What most endears Luraine to art
librarians and visual resources curators is the recognition of what
she achieved to win status and security for our professions. In
particular, Luraine Tansey epitomized the potential of the field of
visual resources, from automation and databases to a future in which
everyone recognizes the import of visual images as a prime research
and teaching tool requiring the highest professional curatorial
skills. She helped to change what was an unappreciated group to a
recognized field with the standards and integrity of art librarians.
Since 2000 Tansey has not been able to attend annual conferences as
she had since ARLIS and VRA came into existence and she is sorely
missed. Luraine Tansey’s humor and complaints in forms of hilarious
parodies of existing conditions helped to further the need to “get
the girls out of the basements” (early slide libraries were often
housed in basements or closets!) and into decent physical working
conditions with staffs, state-of-the-art equipment, equitable
salaries and the recognition their chosen profession deserves.
back to the top
1923 Bought first camera. A Brownie Hawkeye, by
selling perfume. Drawings published in San Francisco Chronicle
1933 Bought second camera. Worked in photography studio: sales,
darkroom processing and painting eyelashes on wedding photos.
1935-38 Undergraduate student. University of California,
Berkeley. BA. General Secondary Education (Art, Music, Drama).
Prize for painting in exhibition.
1938-41 Mills College. Graduate student. MA. Fine Arts. Selected
to Art Honor Society.
1941-43 Art teacher in California high school (ceramics,
metalwork, mechanical drawing flower arranging, photography,
WWII. Army Hospital worker (Arts & Crafts).
1945-48 New York Institute of Fine Arts. Graduate (PhD) student.
1945-46 Part time work in NYU/IFA slide collection. Attended
first CAA Conference.
1946-47 Vassar College. Art librarian.
1947-48 Brooklyn Museum of Art. American Art and Painting
Department. Assistant curator.
1947-63 Married Dr. Richard Tansey. Had four sons. Taught art at
Foothills College. Lectured on art history to women’s clubs.
1963-64 University of Southern California: Doheny Library,
Library assistant; Fisher Gallery. Assistant curator; teaching
1964 CAA/Los Angeles. Attendee. Introduction to the Fogg System
of slide cataloging used in slide collection at UCLA.
1964-84 San Jose City College. Professor (part time; tenured
1964-73 Evergreen Valley College and Mills College. Professor.
Part time. Art History.
1965 CAA/St. Louis. Attendee. Asked CAA president to schedule a
meeting exclusively for slide curators at next annual conference.
1965-68 San Jose State University. Graduate student (MA). Library
1965-72 University of California/Santa Cruz. Librarian in slide
room. Part time.
1967 At Harvard for husband’s class reunion observed a speaker
confusedly searching for slides at museum slide room (Fogg System)
though he used the system at his home school (UCLA). The
two—university and museum—were catalogued differently. Tansey sees
need to create a universal system.
1967 Conversation with Wolfgang Freitag encouraging not only
local and national but also international organizations of art
librarians and slide curators.
1967 UC/Berkeley. Meeting of State of California art librarians
and slide curators. Tansey invites Patricia Farah of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art to speak.
1968 Receives second Master’s degree in Library Science. Her
thesis on computerizing slide collections published the following
1969 First publication of A universal slide classification system
with automatic indexing, co-authored with Wendell Simons.
1969 CAA/Boston. Meeting of art librarians and slide curators
(Betty Jo Irvine presiding). Gives paper on Computerized Slide
1969 Speaker at International Congress of Art History on
computerizing Gothic architecture slides. Budapest, Hungary.
1970 Second publication of her book, under sponsorship from
Council on Library Resources as A slide classification system for
the organization and automatic indexing of interdiscipliary
collections of slides and pictures.
1970 CAA/Buffalo. Meeting of art librarians and slide curators.
(Florence Da Luiso presiding. Gives paper on Computerized Slide
1971 ASIS, Washington, DC. Talk and demonstration on computerized
slide classification and filing.
1971 International Congress of Art History. Granada, Spain. Chair
of slide and art librarians section.
1971 Ibero-American University, Mexico City. Gives two-day
seminar on computerized slide classification.
1972 Special Libraries Association Conference. Toronto. Reads
paper on Social Sciences classification.
1973 Special Libraries Association Conference. Copenhagen,
Denmark. Music iconography section. Reads paper on Music in Art
1967-92 Assists husband and co-author with images and indices of
their five revisions of Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.
Received both ARLIS/NA’s and VRA’s Distinguished Service Awards
Professional memberships: American Library Association (ALA), Art
Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA), College Art
Association (CAA), Society of Architectural Historians (SAH),
Special Libraries Association (SLA), Visual Resources Association
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