Within various disciplines, contextual sources such as history, theory, and criticism are used to support knowledge claims. However, the discipline of art history assigns the undergraduate a particular challenge with regard to secondary source use.
Just as one-shot information literacy sessions can be implemented in college classes to improve students’ research capabilities, similarly-styled sessions on image research can increase their visual literacy skills. The desired outcome of teaching an instructional session is to provide students with the tools and confidence they need to effectively use high-quality visual materials in their undergraduate years and beyond.
This paper describes the evolution of the Cultural Image Literacy Assessment-USA©. This assessment represents an important first step in measuring image literacy within a culture. Visual literacy is an integral part of all cultures. The framework used in creating an assessment of cultural image literacy in the United States could be employed in developing measures of visual literacy for other cultures. In so doing, image literacy can be compared within and across cultures. This survey study explores the effects today’s visual environments have on knowledge levels, and more importantly, knowledge gaps. The study builds on research relating to knowledge gap theory by describing the evolution of cultural image literacy assessment and providing current levels of image literacy within the United States.
The author describes the recent collaboration of a special collections librarian and an art history professor at McGill University to integrate primary source material into a semester-long undergraduate course assignment and subsequent exhibition and catalog. The fourth-year art history course, Canadian Slavery and Its Legacies: A Curatorial Seminar, required students to select and prepare an exhibition catalog entry for two visual objects (prints, maps, books, plates, ephemera, objects) from within the holdings of McGill Rare Books and Special Collections. Through in-class visits and individual consultation, the librarian guided students in navigating special collections for the first time, thus easing feelings of “archival anxiety” and illustrating the role of special collections in academic research.
“Because of the iterative nature of art history between observation and investigation, the library becomes part of the research process as a matter of course. The value of the library collections may not be as obvious to the studio art student, especially given that the web provides an abundance of opportunities to find visual materials for inspiration and social networks to gather information. Through effective library instruction that responds to their unique needs, we can help both populations become successful researchers and benefit from all the library can offer.”