Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation
Helene E. Roberts


A milestone in VR’s history was sadly marked by the death of Helene E. Roberts, Senior Editor of Visual Resources and its stalwart leader for more than twenty years. Helene’s passing on February 22, 2008, at her home in Hanover, New Hampshire, came as a shock to her many friends and colleagues who knew her as scholar and image professional extraordinaire during and after her tenure as head of Visual Collections of the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her many contributions to the enrichment of our understanding of images and imaging as well as Victorian art, history and literature, through her numerous publications, affiliations, presentations, and the accolades that followed, will remain intact in history because of written words and images. We share the sorrow that remains with her husband, David Roberts, her two cats and her extended family.




University of Washington, Seattle, WA

B.A. – 1951
M.A. – 1957
M.L. – 1961



Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (1957-1970)

Assistant Cataloger
Art Cataloger
Art Librarian
Slide Librarian

Harvard University, Fine Arts Library, Fogg Art Museum (1970-1994 [retirement])

Curator of Fine Arts Photographs and Slides Curator of Visual Collections

Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (1994-2008)

Visiting Scholar



“Pre-Raphaelite Ideals in America -The Knight Errant," Dartmouth College Library Bulletin 5, new series (March/April 1962): 4-6

American Art Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century, ACRL Microcard Series, No. 141 (Rochester NY: University of Rochester Press, 1962)

“British Art Periodicals of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Victorian Periodicals Review 9 (July 1970), complete issue

“Marriage, Redundancy or Sin: The Painter’s View of Women in the First Twenty-Five Years of Victoria’s Reign,” in Suffer and Be Still, ed. Martha Vicinus (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1972; reissued, London: Methuen, 1980), 45-76

“Art Reviewing in Early Nineteenth-Century Art Periodicals,” Victorian Periodicals Review 19 (March 1973): 9-20

"The Dream World of Dante Gabriel Rossetti,” Victorian Studies XVII (June 1974): 371-93

“The Inside, the Surface, the Mass: Some Recurring Images of Women,” Women’s Studies II (1974): 289-307

“The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothing in the Making of the Victorian Woman,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society II (Spring 1977): 556-569

“Submission, Masochism, Narcissism: Three Aspects of Women’s Role as Reflected in Dress,” in Women’s Lives: Perspectives on Progress and Changed, ed. Virginia Lee Lusier and Joyce Welstedt (Newark: University of Delaware, 1977), 91-105

“’Trains of Fascinating and Endless Imagery’: Associationist Art Criticism before 1850,” Victorian Periodicals Review, Special Issue in Honor of Walter Houghton X:3 (September 1977), 25-32

“The Image Library,” Art Libraries Journal 3:4 (Winter 1978): 25-32. Reprinted in A Reader in Art Librarianship, IFLA Publications 34, edited for the Section of Art Libraries by Philip Pacey (Munich:K.G. Saur, 1985), 155-61

“Slide Sources for Prehistoric and Ancient Art,” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation I:1 (Spring 1980): 107-11

“Slide Sources for Aegean and Greek Art,” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation I:2/3 (Fall 1980/Winter 1981): 259-67

“Victorian Medievalism” Revival or Masquerade?” Browning Institute Studies VIII (1980): 11-44

“The Sentiment of Reality: Thackeray’s Art Criticism” in Studies in the Novel (Thackeray Issue), ed. Robert Colby, VIII (1980): 21-39

“Exhibition and Review: The Periodical Press and Victorian Exhibition System,” in The Victorian Periodical Press: Samplings and Soundings, ed. Joanne Shattock and Michael Wolf (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982), 79-107

“The European Magazine,” in British Literary Magazines, The Augustan Age and the Age of Johnson 1698-1788, ed. Alvin Sullivan (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1983), 106-12

“The Album”; “Quarterly Review of Science, Literature and the Arts,” British Literary Magazines in the Romantic Age, 1789-1835, ed. Alvin Sullivan (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1983), 307; 354-358

“Visual Documentation: Engraving to Videodiscs,” Drexel Library Quarterly 19:3 (Summer 1983): 18-27

“Visual Resources: Proposals for an Ideal Network,” Art Libraries Journal 9:3 (Autumn 1985): 32-41. Also published in a slightly revised form in INSPEL: Official Organ of the IFLA Division of Special Libraries 2:2 (1986):90-7, with summaries in German, French, Spanish, and Russian

Iconographic Index to Old Testament Subjects Represented in Photographs and Slides of Paintings in the Visual Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1987)

“Clothing and Fashion”; “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”; in The Victorian Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell (Westport CT and London: Garland Press, 1988), 172-6; 625-6

“Visual Resources: Reflections on an Ideal Network,” AICARC: Bulletin of the Archives and Documentation Centers for Modern and Contemporary Art 2 (1986) and 1 (1987): 27-30

“The Visual Document,” Art Libraries Journal 13:2 (1988): 5-8

"'Do You Have Any Pictures of...?': Subject Access to Works of Art in Visual Collections and Book Reproductions," Art Documentation 7:3 (Fall 1988): 87-90

"Periodicals and Art History," in Victorian Periodicals: A Guide to Research, ed. J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. Van Arsdel (New York: Modern Language Association, 1989): 58-66

"Naming, Defining, Ordering: An Evolving and Never-Ending Process," in Terminology for Museums: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Cambridge, England, 21-24 September 1988, ed. D. Andrew Roberts (Cambridge: Museum Documentation Association, 1990): 219-32

"The Medieval Spirit of Pre-Raphaelitism," in Pre-Raphaelitism and Medievalism in the Arts, ed. Liana De Girolami Cheney (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992): 15-27

The Iconographic Index to New Testament Subjects Depicted in Paintings Represented in Photographs and Slides in the Visual Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University, vol. 1: Narrative Paintings of the Italian School, with Rachel Hall (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992)

"Second-Hand Images: The Role of Surrogates in Artistic and Cultural Exchange," Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation IX:4 (1994): 335-46

"Cardinal Wiseman, the Vatican, and the Pre-Raphaelites," in Pre-Raphaelite Art in European Context, ed. Susan P. Casteras and Alicia Craig Faxon (Cranbury NJ and London: Associated University Presses, 1995), 143-59

"Periodicals, III:5(vi); Great Britain," in The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Shoaf Turner (London: Macmillan Publishers, Ltd., 1996), vol. 24, 445-47

"Metaphors of the Self in the Paintings of Dorothea Tanning," VRA Bulletin 34:4 (Winter, 1996): 79-83

"The Persistence of Mythological, Religious, and Literary Narratives as Subjects of Works of Art," in Images and Belief: Studies in Celebration of the Eightieth Anniversary of the Index of Christian Art, ed. Colum Hourihane (Princeton: Index of Christian Art, Department of Art and Archaeology in Association with Princeton University Press, 1999)

"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Art Indexing in Electronic Databases," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 53:11 (September 2001): 911-16



Victorian Periodicals Review, Advisory Editor


"Photograph Collections," in Visual Resources Association Bulletin


Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation, Editor


Documenting the Image: A Book Series, Editor


Victorian Studies, Editorial Board


Art History Through the Camera's Lens, Editor (Amsterdam: Overseas Publishers Association and Newark NJ: Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1995)  
The Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, Editor (Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998)


Librarians' Research Fellowship, Harvard University Library, for work on the subject, "The Press and the Victorian World"


Distinguished Service Award, Visual Resources Association


Worldwide Books, Publication Award (for The Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography), Art Libraries Society of North America





American Society of Picture Professionals  
Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA)

National Secretary, 1986-1988

Art and Architectural Thesaurus Advisory Committee, 1988-1990

Association of Historians of 19th-Century Art  
College Art Association (CAA)

Committee on Electronic Information, 1990-1994

Conference of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ)  
European Society for the History of Photography
Historians of British Art
Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art
Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies
Museum Computer Network
Pugin Society
Northeast Victorian Studies Association
Research Society for Victorian Periodicals

Treasurer, 1967-1973

Visual Resources Association (VRA)

Executive Board, 1987-1996

MARC Format Working Group, 1989-93



"Art Reviewing in Early Nineteenth-Century Art Periodicals," Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, Harvard University, October 14, 1972
"The Inside, the Surface, the Mass: Recurrent Images of Women," American Studies Association, San Francisco, CA, October 20, 1973
"Son et Lumiere: Images of Women," Berkshire Conference, Radcliffe College, October 22, 1975
"Submission, Masochism, Narcissism: Three Aspects of Women's Role as Reflected in Nineteenth-Century Dress," Conference on British Studies, Barnard College, April 5, 1975
"The Artist's Repository and the Discourses: The State of the Arts in Eighteenth-Century England," joint session of ARLIS/NA and CAA, Washington, DC, January 22, 1975
"Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art Periodicals in Great Britain," ARLIS International Conference on Art Periodicals, Sussex University, April 9, 1976
"Journey and Return: A Universal Myth in Victorian Genre Painting," Northeast Victorian Studies Association, Providence, RI, April 2, 1983
"The Martial Maids: Problems of Gender Identity in Orlando furioso and Jerusalem Delivered," MLA, San Francisco, CA, December 29, 1979
"Victorian Medievalism: Revival or Masquerade," Conference on Victorian Medievalism, Graduate Center of CUNY, New York, April 2, 1983
"The Royal Academy: Monopoly in the Art Marketplace," Northeast Victorian Studies Association, Drew University, April 2, 1983
"Art History and Visual Documentation: The Interplay of Two Evolutions, CIHA, Vienna, Spetember 5, 1983
"Victorian Periodicals as a New Source for a Changing Discipline," CAA, Toronto, February 24, 1984
"Religious Dimensions of Pre-Raphaelitism" Symposium: The Complex Culture of the Pre-Raphaelites, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE, October 13, 1984
"The Critics' Influence in the Victorian Art World," joint session, ARLIS/NA and CAA, Los Angeles, CA, February 14, 1985
"Medieval Sources in Pre-Raphaelite Painting," Medieval Forum, Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH, April 27, 1985
"Visual Resources: Proposals for an Ideal Network," IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), Chicago, August 21, 1985
"The Connecting Links between Works of Art," CAA, New York, February 15, 1986
"Medieval Equals Roman Catholic: A Victorian Equation and its Reflection in Pre-Raphaelite Art," Medieval Forum, Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH, April 12, 1986
"The Stained Glass of Morris and Company Seen Against its Religious Background," joint session, MLA and William Morris Society, New York, December 29, 1986
"'Do You Have Any Pictures of...?': Subject Access to Visual Collections and Book Reproductions," ARLIS/NA, Dallas, February 7, 1988
"Art Criticism and the Power of the Press," RSVP (Research Society for Victorian Periodicals), Chicago, December 29, 1986(?)
"Naming, Defining, Ordering: An Evolving and Never-Ending Process," MDA (Museum Documentation Association) International Conference on Terminology for Museums, Cambridge, England, September 22, 1988
"The Forty Thieves: The Royal Academy in the Art Market," ICNS (Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies) 4th Annual Colloquium: Production and Consumption, Science, Commerce and Culture, Portland State University, Portland, OR, April 6, 1989
"Photography and Art History: Past and Present," Keynote Address for the Symposium, Photography and Art History, sponsored by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and Williams College, Williamsburg, MA, February 9, 1990
"Robert Browning and the Victorian Art World," Boston Browning Society, Cambridge, MA, April 17, 1990
"Second-Hand Images: The Role of Surrogates in Artistic and Cultural Exchange," CIHA, VRA (Visual Resources Association) Satellite Meeting, Berlin, July 15, 1992
"Words and Images in Partnership: The Description of Works of Art," ASIS (American Society for Information Science) Mid-Year Meeting, Knoxville, TN, May 21-27, 1993
"An Art-Historical Workstation: What Might It be Like?" ASIS, Mid-Year Meeting, Knoxville, TN, May 21-27, 1993
"From Postcards to OPAC: The Varying Forms of ICONCLASS Projects at Harvard University," MCN (Museum Computer Network) Conference, Seattle, WA, November 3-6, 1993
"Envisioning Art Information," VRA Annual Conference, New York, February 16-18, 1994
"Art Celebrates the Power of the Text: Ford Madox Brown and the History of the English Language," CAA Annual Conference, New York, February 17-19, 1994
"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, and If You are Making an Adequate Catalogue Entry, You Will Need Every One of Them," joint CEDOK (ICOM's International Documentation Committee) and MCN, August 31-September 3, 1994
"Rome in South Kensington," in Historians of British Art Panel, "Politics of Place," at CAA Annual Conference, Boston, MA, February 21-24, 1996
"The Gorgon's Stare and the Evil Eye: Coral in the Renaissance," Tenth Biennial New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota, FL, March 14-16, 1996
"Where Did the Aura Go? Reproductions and Art History," Symposium on Art History and Photography: Critical Theories, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, April 25, 1996
"Metaphors ofthe Self in the Paintings of Dorothea Tanning," VRA Satellite Meeting, Memory & Oblivion, 19th International Congress of the History of Art (CIHA), Amsterdam, September 7, 1996
"'The Precedent Behind Every Action, Its Invisible, Ever-Present Lining,'" Iconography at the Index-Celebrating Eighty Years of The Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, October 29, 1997
"Pugin's Gothic Revival: Masquerade, Ritual, or Obsession," Gothic Revival Conference, Miami University, Oxford, OH, September 18, 1998
"Medievalism, Relilgion, and the Pre-Raphaelites," International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 4, 2001

On Saturday, March 22, 2008, a memorial service was held for Helene Emylou Roberts at Kendal in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Helene and her husband, David, lived for the past few years. The program was as follows:

Memorial Service


Helene Emylou Roberts


Presiding: Fred Berthold

Cellist: Rebecca Haynes


Prelude from Suite #1 in C major, J. S. Bach


Genevieve Williamson: Head of Collection Development at Dartmouth's Baker Library for many years

Jeff Horrell: Dean of Libraries at Darthmouth College and from 1991 to 1998 Librarian of the Fine Arts Library at Harvard

Christine Sundt: Co-editor with Helene of Visual Resources for 20 years, and chief Editor since 2006


Interlude - Allemande from Suite #1 in C Major, J. S. Bach


Peggy Sullivan: An art historian who taught at the University of Montana at Boseman and at the University of Vermont

Pamela Crossley: Professor Chinese History at Dartmouth College for 22 years

Gene Garthwaite: Professor Middle Eastern History at Dartmouth for 40 years


These were my remarks:

Helene E. Roberts

Thank you for including me in this gathering to celebrate the life of Helene Roberts. I am honored to be here among her family, close friends and colleagues.

For me this is a bittersweet moment because it marks the end of a long and fruitful friendship that was founded and later bound up with collaboration on a project - the journal Visual Resources - beginning in the early ‘80s and continuing without a break until her untimely death. The only distinction of note during this period was in who held the main title of Editor. For most of it, Helene was in charge and I remained quietly in the background assisting her as needed with the title Technology Editor. It was only when I retired from my full-time job at the University of Oregon at the end of 2005 that the pecking order changed. Helene asked for a lighter load and I took overas Editor, assuming the full title at the beginning of 2007. But to my delight she insisted on remaining involved and after much discussion and debate we settled on a new title for her: Senior Editor.

For those of you who are not familiar with VR, here’s a little background. Our collaboration started in 1984 when I was approached by a Vice President of the publishing firm Gordon + Breach who had just acquired a journal from its founders, Patricia and John Walsh. The Walshes were clever to spot a subject area in visual resources that was just getting started but still without a place for its scholarship to be disseminated. G+B agreed and were out recruiting a new editor. I was president of the Visual Resources Association at that time and in a position to act on their offer that ultimately led me to Helene who I considered perfect for the job based on her publication record and professional stature. The only question was would I be so lucky to convince her to take over. I guess my luck was with me because she agreed.

For more than 20 years, Helene was the Editor Extraordinaire of VR. Her connections through Dartmouth and Harvard and her wide scholarly network through Victorian Studies and Women’s Studies - literature, history, visual culture, iconography, art history, and more - attracted excellent authors, some newly minted, others quite seasoned, who were stepping into territory that was somewhat new and wide open, that featured images as visual documentation, reproductions as artifacts, and copying as a facet of culture. This territory is now considered 'hot real estate' by many who regard images and reproductions as the be all and end all of our time, temperament, study and pleasure. Because of this we have no shortage of submissions and an ever expanding list of topics in VR that have included studies of postcards, miniature model rooms, documentation of conflict and wars, and of course serious studies of how images are used or how they represent culture and history.

Since my time is limited, I will start wrapping this up with some personal reflections on who Helene was to me and why she was so dear. Let me say that it wasn’t until recently - 2000 to be exact - that she became Emylou to me. Until then her professional persona took center stage as Helene. I guess you can say that our friendship was cemented in that year thanks to a conference in London, which for all intents and purposes was one of the worst we had ever attended but where we became close friends in addition to cherished colleagues.

Emylou was a leader, a role model, an inspiration, a pathfinder, a dyed-in-the-wool Pacific Northwesterner with good Norwegian roots, and a connoisseur of fashion, style, and the theater. She was strong but always polite, witty and serious, concerned about the future and fully engaged with both the past and the present. She was also a marvelous fellow traveler and roommate. She taught me how to find my way around London without a map and on foot – oh, those countless miles we walked! She also instilled within me the value of happy hour - that martini or glass of wine that we always enjoyed before dinner in our travels. I will miss my friend, my sounding board, my brilliant colleague who was of like mind on important matters such as politics, the environment, and animals, especially cats.

Upon being told of her passing by our friend Peggy Sullivan, I sent an email notice to the various groups and affiliates who knew her. Her colleagues and friends responded with expressions ofshock and dismay but also with fond reflections and memories of what she meant to them. I have collected these notes in a binder, which I will leave with David. Also included in the binder is the text from the website that I created in her honor that is attached to the web page listing all of the issues of Visual Resources (with titles of articles, reviews, and special issues) from the beginning of the journal in 1980. My purpose in doing this was to highlight her brilliant accomplishments and to share with the world why she was so beloved, respected, and treasured as a friend by so many of us.

I have also brought the gift that I was going to send her for her birthday (tomorrow) but which I now give to you her friends at Kendal. It’s nothing of great value - some DVDs of old Sherlock Holmes films - yet another link we had: our enjoyment of mysteries. Maybe that’s also a link that comes out of our profession as curators - looking for the missing bits, the lost elements, unearthing metadata, in faded photos and broken slides, and the hidden meanings that ultimately can be found and assembled into something of value. My friendship with Helene, later Emylou, came together by working together on VR, by putting together bits and elements about images and their documentation, solving puzzles and mysteries in scholarly discourse. Thanks to her VR is the success it is today.

Christine L. Sundt
22 March 2008


Christine L. Sundt, Editor
Visual Resources
P.O. Box 5316
Eugene, OR 97405 - USA
Helen Ronan, Review Editor
Visual Resources
2 Duggan Road
Acton, MA 01720 - USA
Murtha Baca, News Editor
Visual Resources
Getty Research Institute
Los Angeles, CA 90049 - USA

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