In the early 1970s, slide libraries were still considered something of a cutting-edge resource for faculty and students in the new visual arts – fine arts – programmes, as they were known then, beginning to emerge in universities and colleges across the country. As the first slide librarian students encountered through the halls of university life at Western, Brenda had the unenviable task of guiding often, impatient people through the process of using the resources of the slide library so carefully organized by her for the department. Her task, mainly keeping us in line and educating us about what not to do, was peppered with careful notes and questions designed to direct efficient use of library resources. To this day, I remember the critical path set out – her design – of entering the library (always, with hands pristine), of proceeding to the slide drawers, of selecting, and then, working from one visual image to the next. I remember still the play of my eyes across historical texts to slide-viewer and back.
As it turned out, (until 1992) I spent many afternoons in the slide library, most often with Brenda somewhere near by – quietly working in the background or overseeing that year's new batch of students. Her voice firm, yet kind and careful outlined the route to information gathering and visual investigation. She suggested the pensive hours that undoubtedly lay ahead and promised a hint of the discoveries and surprises that come from first-hand viewing, along with considered observation. Not only did she set out procedures that continue to guide my research, she offered a well-trodden path for visual discovery and for finding new ways of making visual connections that continues to serve me well.
As the years went by, the routine of pulling slides began to include a brief chat about new projects, interests, exhibitions and publications, and then, our children. I am sorry to say that it has been some time since I last visited with Brenda. For me, her presence – the flash of quick recognition in her eyes, the trace of mirth in her smile – are woven into the texture of the visual education I received and participated in at Western.