Joy Alexander Blouin, former head of the Visual Resources Collection in the Department of History of Art, died peacefully on July 17 at age 74, surrounded by her family. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

A native of Port Huron, Michigan, she graduated from Port Huron High School in 1963 and then from Michigan State University in 1967. She went on to complete a master’s degree in art history, with an interest in Spanish baroque art, at MSU followed by master’s in library science at the University of Michigan.

Photo of Joy Alexander Blouin
Joy Alexander Blouin

She remained at U-M for the entirety of her professional career, combining her interests in art history and library science. Her first position was at what was then called the Rare Book Room of the University Library. She then was appointed a curator in the Visual Resources Collection in the art history department, specializing in western art.

For nearly 20 years, she served as head of that collection. Those were the days when the teaching of art history depended on quality colored-slide reproductions. She oversaw a collection of more than half a million slides housed in the basement of Tappan Hall. At the time it was considered among the very finest teaching collections in the nation.

Under her able direction the collection expanded to include original photography by faculty or staff photographers. Joy was instrumental in developing the U-M Slide Distribution Project, a project undertaken by staff that identified and photographed important objects in museum and private collections, making slides that, duplicated and sold, enhanced the holdings of many other teaching institutions.

For many years, Joy administered the art history department’s annual workshop on Italian Renaissance art at the Villa Corsi Salviati outside Florence, Italy. She was active in the Visual Resources Association and served as editor of the VRA Bulletin for 13 years. She also served ex-officio on the VRA board of directors. In 1991, she was awarded the VRA Distinguished Service Award.

As new technology supplanted the need for reproductions on film, she moved on to become librarian for the School of Art, now known as the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. She served in that position for three years, then retired from the university in 2001.

Aptly named, she brought joy to all who knew her. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Jay Frye Alexander, in 1987. She leaves her husband of 30 years, Francis X. Blouin, her two children, Benjamin (Peggy) Alexander of Los Angeles and Tiffany (Bill) Joyce of Ann Arbor; two grandchildren, Molly Alexander and Alexander Joyce; and a brother, John Zauner of Los Altos, California.

A visitation will take place at Nie Funeral Home, 3767 W. Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, from 6-8 p.m. Aug 25. A funeral service will be at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 306 N. Division St., at 11 a.m. Aug. 26. Interment at Forest Hills Cemetery will be private.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations in her memory to the Humane Society of Washtenaw County or the Breakfast Program at St. Andrew’s Church.

— Submitted by the Department of History of Art