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Digital Commonwealth (Mass.) 2007, Picture This -- but don't forget the context.

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  1. 1. Picture This! But Don’t Forget the Context Ron Gagnon, Executive Director
  2. 2. What is Context? <ul><li>Parts that surround and help to determine meaning </li></ul><ul><li>The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2007, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company . </li></ul>
  3. 3. Context <ul><li>At the moment of creation </li></ul><ul><li>At the time of presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Aids in understanding and appreciation </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Who are these people and what are they doing here? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Answer: “ 1915 Pageant Saugus” <ul><li>But Why? (Saugus Public Library) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Context Sources <ul><li>From the original image and setting </li></ul><ul><li>From the selection – then and now </li></ul><ul><li>From the metadata – description and access points </li></ul><ul><li>From the display, placement or arrangement </li></ul>
  7. 7. Sources Bring Context <ul><li>Postcards –promotional, scenic </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial – promote business, investment </li></ul><ul><li>Documentary – who’s funding? </li></ul><ul><li>Photos from the Beverly Public Library: </li></ul><ul><li>Top, United Shoe Machinery Co., </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom, Washington School </li></ul>
  8. 8. Sources Bring Context <ul><li>News photos – great calamity </li></ul><ul><li>News photos – donated files, more depth </li></ul><ul><li>Organizations – focused, some depth </li></ul><ul><li>Constituents – more everyday life, balanced </li></ul>
  9. 9. Original Context? <ul><li>Posed or candid? </li></ul><ul><li>Older photos likely to be posed due to technology and style. </li></ul><ul><li>Typical or not? </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of information </li></ul><ul><li>Photos: Beebe Memorial Library, Wakefield, Heywood-Wakefield Company </li></ul>
  10. 10. Typical 1912 Factory?
  11. 11. Typical 1912 Factory?
  12. 12. Context <ul><li>Top: Stitching Room Personnel, A. E. Little Co., Lynn, Mass. shoe manufacturer. (Lynn Public Library) </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom: ”At machine is Stanislaus Beauvais, has worked in spinning room for two years. Salem, Mass., 10/26/1911” (National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912, National Archives) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Commercial Interest? <ul><li>PR shots of factories or true conditions? </li></ul><ul><li>Contrast with child labor and other workplace issues </li></ul><ul><li>Many old views are postcards – present community or attraction in best light </li></ul>
  14. 14. Point of View? <ul><li>What message is being conveyed? </li></ul><ul><li>Intentional or not? </li></ul><ul><li>Today’s cultural viewpoints different than 70 years ago – minorities, women, etc. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Selection <ul><li>Finances require some selectivity, prioritization, at least initially </li></ul><ul><li>Select cross section of pictures or focus on select topics? </li></ul><ul><li>Big events vs. everyday life </li></ul><ul><li>Influenced by donors/funders? </li></ul><ul><li>What about the big annual minstrel show? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Create Context <ul><li>Improve understanding by bringing together images and information from the same time and place. </li></ul><ul><li>Related images, contemporary newspaper accounts, oral history, passages from local history works. </li></ul><ul><li>Time lines </li></ul>
  17. 17. Make History Alive and Vital <ul><li>Link into packages: pictures with oral histories </li></ul><ul><li>Geotagging: linking images by neighborhood </li></ul><ul><li>“ Then and Now” sets </li></ul><ul><li>Outreach and cooperation with local history groups, photography clubs, etc. </li></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>Link for public comments (form asks for contact info for follow-up) </li></ul><ul><li>Integrates comments </li></ul><ul><li>Policy link </li></ul><ul><li>Purchase option </li></ul><ul><li>Credit to digitization funder and provider </li></ul>
  19. 21. Then and Now <ul><li>Arcadia book series </li></ul><ul><li>Calendars </li></ul><ul><li>Newspaper </li></ul><ul><li>Web site </li></ul><ul><li>Work with photography groups </li></ul><ul><li>More precise the better </li></ul>
  20. 22. Worthington Time Machine http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/time_machine.cfm
  21. 23. Linking Past with Present
  22. 24. Geotagging Example
  23. 25. Today: Tomorrow’s History <ul><li>What are you collecting on the Flood of 2006? </li></ul><ul><li>Collect public contributions before they lose/file them </li></ul><ul><li>Develop relationship with local media </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Brian Kelley </li></ul>
  24. 26. Tomorrow’s History Today <ul><li>Check sources like Flickr </li></ul><ul><li>May require contacting photogs </li></ul><ul><li>Probably pleased to be recognized and preserved </li></ul><ul><li>Danvers Explosion photos, 11/2006; top photo: Charlie Mulcahey; bottom EPA </li></ul>
  25. 27. Metadata Provides Context <ul><li>Fancy word for cataloging information </li></ul><ul><li>Who, What, When, Where and maybe Why </li></ul><ul><li>Finding aid and background information </li></ul><ul><li>Harvested by other systems </li></ul><ul><li>May require research, an investment </li></ul><ul><li>For future generations, not ephemeral </li></ul>
  26. 28. Enhance the Metadata <ul><li>“ Samuel Hawkes Home / Walnut St. / Zayres there now” (Saugus Public Library) </li></ul><ul><li>Who remembers Zayre? That’s history, too. (natick.wordpress.com ) </li></ul><ul><li>Exact address??? </li></ul>
  27. 29. Why? <ul><li>The Future of Libraries Beginning the Great Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>By Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>3)       Preserve the memories of your own communities.   While most libraries have become the document archive of their community, the memories of a community span much more than just documents.  What did it sound like to drive down Main Street in 1950?  What did it smell like to walk into Joe’s Bakery in the early mornings of 1965?  Who are the people in these community photos and why were they important?  Memories come in many shapes and forms.  Don’t let yours disappear . </li></ul>
  28. 30. Community Outreach <ul><li>Outreach to the community </li></ul><ul><li>Take it on the road – Rotary, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Build community interest, funding for digitization, contribution of collections </li></ul><ul><li>Primary search material for school research </li></ul><ul><li>Work with seniors for research and first-hand knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Role for library in the community </li></ul>
  29. 31. Unique Niche <ul><li>Our libraries have unique collections </li></ul><ul><li>Integral to the history of the country: Early Settlers, American Revolution, 1692 Witchcraft, Revolutionary War, Industrial Revolution, Automation </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional history: changes and progress </li></ul><ul><li>Underutilized – difficult to access, unknown </li></ul><ul><li>In Danger: theft, deterioration, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Irreplaceable </li></ul>
  30. 32. Thank you! Ron Gagnon [email_address]