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Cataloguing Photographs at The British Postal Museum & Archive

A presentation given at the Archives and Records Association, London Region meeting on Monday 11th July, 2011.

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Cataloguing Photographs at The British Postal Museum & Archive

  1. 1. Cataloguing Photographs at the British Postal Museum & Archive<br />
  2. 2. Introduction<br />What is BPMA?<br />The Photograph Collection<br />Origins<br />Content<br />What we’ve done with it<br />Cataloguing the Photographs<br />What we’ve achieved<br />Creating descriptions<br />
  3. 3. What is BPMA?<br /><ul><li>The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is the public identity of the Postal Heritage Trust.
  4. 4. Charitable Trust established in 2004 to manage the public records of The Royal Mail Archive, and to develop access to the museum collections of the former National Postal Museum.</li></li></ul><li>The Royal Mail Archive<br />
  5. 5. Museum Collection<br />
  6. 6. Audio-visual holdings<br />
  7. 7. The Photograph Collection<br />
  8. 8. Origins<br />
  9. 9. Content<br />Main series of photographs brought under the library’s custody:<br />P-series – Publicity photographs taken for the Public Relations Department from 1934 onwards<br />Postal photographs went to the Library<br />Telecoms photographs went to the Telecoms Division (subsequently BT)<br />Other, smaller series from other departments<br />Material submitted from outside GPO - private donations<br />
  10. 10. Publicity<br />Photographs produced from 1934 for the Public Relations Department<br />Original photographers were from the Engineer-in Chief’s Department<br />Originally to provide visual material for newly published Post Office Magazine<br />
  11. 11. Publicity<br />
  12. 12. Publicity<br />
  13. 13. Publicity<br />
  14. 14. Publicity<br />
  15. 15. Publicity<br />
  16. 16. Publicity<br />
  17. 17. Other series<br />
  18. 18. What we’ve achieved<br />Approx. 2500 catalogue descriptions available<br />Approx. 2000 draft records in CALM waiting for release<br />4000 scanned (prints)<br />Approx. 4500 individual negatives and accompanying prints re-housed<br />Further discoveries at 130 Old Street premises<br />Parcelforce photographs accessioned in 2009<br />
  19. 19. Volunteers:<br />Kathryn, Anne & Julian have done the bulk of the cataloguing over the last 4-5 years<br />Kathryn and Anne have both gone on to complete postgraduate qualification and become archivists<br />Julian is currently working through large series of photographs from 1960s-1980s<br />What we’ve achieved<br />
  20. 20. What we’ve achieved<br />
  21. 21. What we’ve achieved<br />
  22. 22. What we’ve achieved<br />
  23. 23. What we’ve achieved<br />
  24. 24. What we’ve achieved<br />
  25. 25. Describing the photographs<br />Barriers to description:<br />Copyright<br />Paperwork no longer exists to ascertain copyright status<br />Photographers contracted to carry out work but agreements not kept nor contact details<br />Identification of photographer/copyright holder is even worse for the modern photographs<br />
  26. 26. Barriers to description:<br />Conditions<br />Poorly housed prints and negatives all over the store<br />Conservation survey has highlighted several areas of concern<br />How to preserve contextual links with re-housed items?<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  27. 27. Barriers to description:<br />Knowledge<br />No trained experts in photographic formats or identification<br />Lack of provenance for much of the collection – contextual details are very scant<br />Several interviews with former librarian has thrown up contradictions – memory fallible<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  28. 28. Catalogue description<br />No universally accepted standard for describing photographs – no ideal template out there for us to adopt<br />Depth of description variable – too much or too little – what’s appropriate at which level?<br />Flexible use of descriptive elements beyond basic ISAD(G) fields<br />Efficient and appropriate use of levels of description<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  29. 29. Descriptive elements:<br />ISAD(G) mandatory fields:<br />3.1.1 Reference Code<br />3.1.3 Title<br />3.2.1 Name of Creator<br />3.1.3 Dates of Creation<br />3.1.3 Extent<br />3.1.4 Level of Description<br />Description of photographs requires more elements than this<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  30. 30. Consider employing the following elements to employ:<br />Materials<br />Dimensions<br />Copyright<br />Photographic type (LSE Man and Cameraman project)<br />Subjects depicted (V&A)<br />Categories (V&A)<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  31. 31. Describing the photographs<br />
  32. 32. Describing the photographs<br />
  33. 33. Describing the photographs<br />
  34. 34. Other descriptive models to look at:<br />SEPIADES<br />Special elements:<br />Names/persons/photographer<br />Geographical location (with extra specification dependent on relation to photograph)<br />VRA Core<br />Championed by LOC and other organisations worldwide<br />Elements include:<br />Technique (The production or manufacturing processes, techniques, and methods incorporated in the fabrication or alteration of the work or image; e.g. aerial photography)<br />Worktype (Identifies the specific type of WORK, COLLECTION, or IMAGE being described in the record; e.g. black-and-white transparency, color transparency, etc.)<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  35. 35. Describing the photographs<br />
  36. 36. Links and resources for photographic description:<br />SEPIADES (<br />Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Reading Room (<br />VRA Core (<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  37. 37. Links and resources for managing photographic archives:<br />ICA Photographic & Audiovisual Archives Group Survival kit (<br />ICA, publications for archivists managing photograph and film collections (<br />British Library Preservation Advisory Centre (<br />Institute of Conservation (ICON), (<br />Describing the photographs<br />
  38. 38. The End<br />