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Standards and Guidelines

Slide Labeling: Recommended Conventions

General Comments

Proper labeling of slides is a simple but very important task. One must provide the name, date, dimensions, medium, date of completion, and notations indicating the slides’ correct orientation for the viewer (before it goes into the projector). Sometimes it is appropriate to indicate the location of the piece and/or if it is destroyed.

In most cases plastic and/or cardboard slides mounts are preferred. They survive better than glass mounts in the shipping and mailing process. Some glass mounts are too thick for some projector trays. Occasionally glass slides require a heavy tape for the edges, which make them problematic for certain slide trays and projectors.

Always be sure to provide adequate return postage and mailing envelopes/mailers for the party receiving the slides–unless that party indicates that they will provide return postage. This is certainly true of slides mailed during job searches. A university or college is not obligated to return slides if you have not provided adequate postage or mailing materials. Imagine the costs to the university if hundreds of applicants did not provide postage.

Colleges and universities should not duplicate or retain copies of a candidate’s slides without the permission of the candidate. The search should not be used as a way of building a contemporary slide collection.

Given the competitive nature of the marketplace for artists and artist/educators, it helps to have professional-looking labels. These can be created on labeling machines and word processors. If handwritten labels are a necessity, print clearly. The care used in labeling slides is a statement about your professionalism. If the slide is poorly labeled, cracked, scratched, etc., it may lead the viewer to believe that you do not care . . . so why should they?

Check your slides periodically to be sure the slide labels and signal dots are sticking to the slide. It is highly frustrating for the person operating the projector to have slides stick due to labels that fall off into the projector or slide tray.

Each slide should have labels that provide the following information:

1. Your name.

2. Title of your work. All titles should be italicized or underlined. If your labels are handwritten, simply underline the title.

3. The medium. Be reasonable in your choice of terms. Slide label space may affect your word choice, so select your terms well.

4. Date of completion.

5. Dimensions. Whenever you provide dimensions for a work of art, you must use the following conventions:

    Three-dimensional works: Height x Width x Depth (always in that order).

    Two-dimensional works: Height x Width (always in that order).

    Keep your units of measurement consistent. Within the Unites States, measurements are typically recorded in feet and inches. Outside the United States, the metric system is normally used. Both are acceptable.

    Whichever system you select, try to be consistent.


    correct 6 ft. x 2 ft. (ft. = feet)
    correct 6' x 2'
    correct 72 inches x 24 inches (in. = inch)
    correct 72" x 24"
    incorrect 72 inches x 2 feet (don't mix system of units)

    To convert centimeters to inches: 1 in. = 2.54 centimeters (cm.)

6. Location. If the work is part of an important collection, a site-specific piece, a building, etc., you should indicate the location.

7. Destroyed. If the work has been removed or destroyed, that should indicated.

Orientation of slide. The individual who will be placing the slide in the carousel tray or projector must know the front from the back and the top from the bottom.

A signal dot (usually red) should be placed in the lower-left corner of the front side (when it is in the correct position for handheld viewing. This tells the person placing slides in the tray the correct position for projection. Once the tray is loaded, all the red dots will be visible and positioned so that the dot is seen in the upper-right corner.

Signal dots have been known to fall off. It is entirely appropriate and desirable to put an arrow in the upper right hand corner of the front side indicating top of slide (when it is in the correct position for hand held viewing). If space allows, one can even use the words “Top” and “Front.”

The correct orientation of the slide occasionally makes it difficult to get all the information on the slide. Try to stay consistent in your approach to labeling.

Authors and Contributors

Submitted by the CAA Professional Practices Committee: Michael Aurbach (chair), Frederick Asher, Whitney Davis, Linda Hults, Dennis Ichiyama, Annette Weintraub, and Richard West. Special thanks to Ellen Konowitz.

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