The "Life Cycle of Visual Assets"

Advocating for the Profession

  • Carolyn Lucarelli The Pennsylvania State University
  • Betha Whitlow Washington University in Saint Louis
Keywords: life cycle, visual assets, job description, infographic


The VRA Identity Task Force was formed in 2018 in response to the Visual Resources Association Strategic Plan (2018-2022), which recommended that the VRA reflect upon its identity with regard to both its legacy and future. To address this charge, the Task Force engaged in a comprehensive analysis of the Association that ultimately resulted in a set of recommendations related to the VRA’s mission, core values, and vision. A key component of the work of the Task Force was the development of the Life Cycle of Visual Assets infographic, organized into categories that reflect the complex workflows and diversity of tasks performed by visual asset professionals: conceptualization, capture, description, management, access, preservation, and use. This article focuses on the Life Cycle, including the models that inspired it, what it consists of, and how it can be used as a tool to advocate for the importance of the profession.

Author Biographies

Carolyn Lucarelli, The Pennsylvania State University

Carolyn Lucarelli directed the former Visual Resources Centre (VRC) in Penn State’s Department of Art History for many years until it was transformed in 2021 into the Center for Virtual/Material Studies, an initiative she now manages. Before coming to Penn State, she was assistant museum librarian in the Photograph and Slide Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and assistant curator of visual resources in the Department of Art History at Dartmouth College. She has a wealth of experience in many of the areas described in the Life Cycle of Visual Assets, including digital humanities, imaging technologies, metadata standards and controlled vocabularies, digital image collections and virtual exhibitions, and copyright and intellectual property. In addition to her role as co-chair of the VRA Identity Task Force in 2018-2020, Carolyn has served the VRA in several capacities over the years. She holds a B.A. in Art History from Columbia University and an M.A. in Art History from Dartmouth College.

Betha Whitlow, Washington University in Saint Louis

Betha Whitlow led the former Visual Resource Center (VRC) at Washington University in Saint Louis until 2021, when it was re-envisioned as the Digital Art History Lab (DAHL) to reflect the changing role of the facility in the experience of faculty and students. In her current role directing the DAHL, she still dips into the responsibilities described in the Life Cycle of Visual Assets regularly, while also working to build digital humanities literacies through a range of training and support initiatives. In her joint appointment as a lecturer, she teaches “The Digital Art Historian,” which provides robust digital humanities training to graduate (and soon also undergraduate) students. Along with co-chairing the VRA Identity Task Force, Betha has also held many other roles within the VRA and the VRAF, including Vice-President for Conference Programs and Chair of the Summer Educational Institute (SEI). She has a B.A. in Art History from Northwestern University, and an M.A. in Art History from Washington University in Saint Louis.