Why Photos Matter to Archives More than Ever Before, and Why That's a Problem
This special presentation featured the iSchool's own Dr. Leigh Gleason and addressed the increasingly complex role that photographs have in archival repositories, and how we as archivists can be prepared for these issues. Original abstract below:
Many scholars point to the introduction of the Kodak camera in the late 19th century as the dawn of photography's cultural ubiquity. Indeed, from the 1890s, photography had become a mainstream and (relatively) affordable hobby, allowing anyone to assume the role of photographer. The first Kodak was introduced in 1888, and now, 130 years later, we see this problem in overdrive. Cameras are ubiquitous, and for many, our camera never leave our sides in the form of our smartphones. Through the phone, many of us carry thousands of photographs in our pocket, let alone more stored on hard drives, in the cloud, or, looking back a few years, on disc or in binders of analog negatives. Image production is at the core of our regular daily activity, and while most may understand that the majority of these photographs don't belong in an archive, we encounter far more people seeking homes for their photographic output than that of their personal papers. This talk will address how we as archivists need to reconcile these issues. What skills are necessary to be an archivist of visual materials? How can we navigate the potentially vast materials that can (or should) be offered to our repositories? And how do we manage the heartbreak that happens when faced with the problem that there are simply too many photographs and too little space?