My presentation for the Archives, Rare Books, and Special Collections Conference, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2010. Here, I talk about the challenges of describing archival photographs of architectural monuments around the world.
Drexel: MLIS in 2008; currently getting my Post-Master’s Certificate in Archives and Records Management.
Rock-Hewn Coptic Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 “ New Jerusalem” to attract European pilgrims during the Middle Ages Conservation began in 1968 and was suspended in 1972. Currently working there Bet Giorgis, one of eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level.
Biet Gabriel Raphael, 2007. The heavy weight of some of the roofs threatens stability of the monuments.
Biet Gabriel Raphael, 2007. Volcanic rock is prone to develop fissures, and water damage is evident both outside and inside the churches.
Biet Gabriel Raphael, 2007. Aerial view from south.
Biet Amanuel, 2008. Temporary shelters are obstacles to circulation and to the proper use of the spaces for ritual functions. They have considerable negative impact on the live rock surrounding the site, on the surrounding landscape, and the buried archaeological features of the site.
Current project: assess existing conditions, develop a conservation strategy and management plan, repair past destructive interventions, train locals to manage and maintain the site in the future.
The rise of the history of social movements and under-represented segments of society in the mid-to-late twentieth century has increased the usage of visual materials in scholarly work. It would have been impossible to conduct research in these relatively new fields if they had limited themselves to traditional records of evidential values preserved in archives.
Historical training, library/information science training, and archival training: no or very little visual literacy.
Biet Mariam and Biet Medani Alem shelters, 2008.
Biet Mariam, 2008.
Bet Mariam, 2008, Ritual celebration in progress.
Bet Emanuel during early conservation, seen from ground-level, c1970.
Bet Emmanuel, 2008.
Bet Emmanuel laser-scans
This 3D model is derived from laser scans by Heinz Rüther and his team from the University of Cape Town’s Geomatics Department.
Worth a Thousand Words: Archival Description of Photographs
Worth a Thousand Words: Archival Description of Photographs Margot Note Director of Archives and Information Management World Monuments Fund
World Monuments Fund <ul><li>Founded in 1965 </li></ul><ul><li>Headquarters in New York, offices in Europe and UK </li></ul><ul><li>Foremost private, nonprofit organization devoted to on-site conservation of monuments and sites worldwide </li></ul><ul><li>90 countries, 500 projects </li></ul>
Photographic Archives <ul><li>60,000 digital images </li></ul><ul><li>1,800 image CDs </li></ul><ul><li>35,000 slides and 20,000 prints </li></ul><ul><li>Arranged by country, site, and project </li></ul><ul><li>Key images digitized for ARTstor </li></ul>
Photographs as Records <ul><li>Became part of a broader range of evidence as scholarly interests expanded </li></ul><ul><li>Recognized as records of enduring value in their own right </li></ul><ul><li>Postmodernism </li></ul><ul><li>Visual Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Provenance </li></ul>
Postmodernism <ul><li>Rejects concepts of rationality, objectivity, and universal truth </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasizes the diversity of human experience and multiplicity of perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Questions the concept that records have only one possible meaning </li></ul>
Visual Literacy <ul><li>Pacey (1983) notes, “There is of course a crucial difference between illiteracy and visual illiteracy. People who cannot read know that they cannot read. We all think we can ‘read’ images—but very probably we cannot” (233). </li></ul>
Meaning <ul><li>Unlike archives and manuscripts, image collections often do not have a defined organizational structure, individual titles, or creator names by which they can be described. </li></ul><ul><li>Panofsky (1939): preiconography, iconography, and iconology </li></ul><ul><li>Kaplan and Mifflin (2000): superficial, concrete, and abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Ofness and aboutness </li></ul>
Content vs. Context <ul><li>Content limits interpretation of photographs as historical evidence and requires expertise to provide useful service to researchers. </li></ul><ul><li>Context fully appreciates the evidential value of photographs. </li></ul>
Provenance <ul><li>Examination of context in which images have been created, used, and maintained in image collections </li></ul><ul><li>Historical, aesthetic, and cultural frame of reference </li></ul><ul><li>Intended functions </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships and meanings related to conventions at the time and place of creation </li></ul><ul><li>Interests of the photographer </li></ul>
Archival Description <ul><li>Combines traditional library and archival practice with the more focused descriptive practices of the visual resources community. </li></ul><ul><li>Depends on intended uses and audiences. </li></ul>
Metadata (WMF) Country: Ethiopia Site: Rock-hewn Coptic Churches of Lalibela, Biet Giorgis (House of Saint George) Caption: Of all the churches, Biet Giorgis is particularly stunning and beautiful, situated apart from the other churches to the west, intricately carved into the shape of a cross. Image Date: March 2008 Photographer: Gaetano Palumbo/WMF Provenance: Site Visit Original: digital CD WMF107
Description in Context <ul><li>By failing to document rich contextual relationships, variety of narratives, and multi-provenancial characteristics, we limit the evidential and informational value of photographs. </li></ul><ul><li>New possibilities: new ways of understanding photographs, new voices waiting to be documented, and new ways of engaging our users and presenting our work to the public. </li></ul>
Works Cited <ul><li>Kaplan, E., & Mifflin, J. (2000). “Mind and sight”: Visual literacy and the archivist. In R. C. Jimerson (Ed.) American archival studies: Readings in theory and practice . Chicago: Society of American Archivists. </li></ul><ul><li>Pacey, P. (1983). Information technology and the universal availability of images. IFLA Journal 9(3), 230-235. </li></ul><ul><li>Panofsky, E. (1939). Studies in iconology; Humanistic themes in the art of the renaissance . New York: Oxford University Press. </li></ul>