Medium 9781538119969

Collections Vol 14 N2

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(Spring 2018) This focus issue of the journal examines case studies from the field of photographic preservation and collections management. Guest Editor, Olivia Arnone, provides a history and context for the eponymous program based at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. Six amply-illustrated articles addressing this area of research and experience follow.

Terri Holtze, Rachel I. Howard, Randy Kuehn, Rebecca Pattillo, and Elizabeth Reilly tell the story of The Caufield & Shook Collection. Through sheer diligence, persistence, ingenuity, and commitment to the profession—as well as the collection and its long-term preservation—the archivists recovered lost histories of the collection to build out institutional narrative and, likewise, developed robust a digitization workflow accompanied by best practices for future processing and digitization of large photographic collections.

Tasha Lutek of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) examines the challenges of exhibiting, storing, crating, and traveling as well as cataloging, housing, and documenting a multi-piece installation of contemporary art, Lele Saveri’s The Newsstand (2013). In her accounts of museum installations at MoMA and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Lutek’s case study explores how imaging played an essential role in each of these aspects of preservation, access, and exhibition of the work.

Stephanie Becker asks critical questions about cataloging, digitizing, and re-housing methods as a way of guiding decisions on how to stabilize items in fragile condition while allowing access to them. Her case study examines vernacular albums by Thomas A. Nelson in the collection of George Eastman Museum which are comparable to many such items in individual and institutional collections worldwide.

Daniel J. Menzo recounts a graduate internship experience at Greater Patchogue Historical Society (New York) which involved rehousing, minimally cleaning, and digitizing a subset of the entirety of 2000 glass-plate negatives. Menzo offers perspective on how graduate work informs actual internship and professional work and pays heed to the benefit of a thoughtful approach in setting up a system before delving in without thinking through protocols.

Erin Fisher introduces us a chronological guide to Kodak photographic paper surface characteristics, created by the author after careful examination of an extensive number of Kodak data books, manuals, and manufacturing records in the collections of three Rochester, NY-based institutions. The guide aims to help researchers, photography archivists, conservators, or anyone else interested in Kodak history, gain access to a better understanding of photographic paper produced by Kodak from 1930-1955 while also serving qualitative and interpretive aims relative to larger social and cultural aims, including the materiality as well as the aesthetics of photography.

Finally, Ingrid Forster considers the potential of AR for photographic collections in museums and archives by looking at digital tools, their use in aiding our understanding of photographs as both object and image, and the implications and limitations of such technologies.

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Overcoming Legacy Processing in Photographic Collections through Collaboration and Digital Technologies

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Overcoming Legacy Processing in Photographic Collections through Collaboration and Digital Technologies

Terri Holtze

Head of Web Services, University of Louisville, Ekstrom Library, Louisville, KY; terri.holtze@louisville.edu

Rachel Howard

Digital Initiatives Librarian, University of Louisville, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY; rachel.howard@louisville.edu

Randy Kuehn

Digital Technologies Systems Librarian, University of Louisville, Ekstrom Library, Louisville, KY; randy.kuehn@louisville.edu

Rebecca Pattillo

Metadata Librarian, University of Louisville, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY; rebecca.pattillo@louisville.edu

Elizabeth Reilly

Curator, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY; elizabeth.reilly@louisville.edu

Abstract In the 1960s, a Louisville photography studio began donating its negatives, prints, and invoices to the University of Louisville Photographic Archives. The Caufield & Shook collection remains a significant primary source for local history and a prime candidate for digitization. Unfortunately, on its receipt, nonarchivists processed the collection with little documentation of original order or organizational decision making. Additionally, workflow choices were determined largely by the desire to maximize student labor. In 2017, the digital initiatives librarian worked with in-house application developers and archives staff to create a workflow that has significantly sped up the process of making this valuable photographic collection accessible online. This article describes how archivists recovered from the poor processing decisions, used technology to enhance the digitization workflow, and developed a list of best practices for future processing and digitization of large photographic collections.

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Imaging as Praxis

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Imaging as Praxis

Cataloging, Housing, and Installing Lele Saveri’s The Newsstand

Tasha Lutek

Collection Specialist, Department of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; tasha_lutek@moma.org

Abstract In 2013, The Newsstand, a pop-up space featuring hundreds of zines and art objects, was installed in a Brooklyn, New York, subway station. The space was designed to be a site of collaboration and inspiration for artists. Even though the intention was not for it to be an artwork, two years later the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) re-created and exhibited The Newsstand in its galleries. To activate the installation, visitors were invited to engage with the space and read the zines contained inside. At the close of the exhibition, the work entered MoMA’s collection and shortly after was lent to the Fondation Louis Vuitton (FLV). The volume of material and interactive qualities of The Newsstand present unique challenges for collection staff. Using two museum installations as departure points, this is a case study outlining the strategies employed for cataloging, housing, and installing this complex work, focusing on how imaging played an essential role in making sense of the transition from nonart status to collection object.

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The Snapshots of A. Thomas Nelson

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The Snapshots of A. Thomas Nelson

A Case Study in the Preservation of Early 20th-Century Vernacular Albums

Stephanie Becker

Institutional Repository Content Manager, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH; stephanie.becker@case.edu

Abstract Throughout the early 20th century, A. Thomas Nelson took snapshots while traveling the United States and Canada. His wife, Catherine Nelson, made a selection of these and placed them within eight photographic albums, later acquired by the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Using one of these, “Snapshots from Travels in the United States and Canada (1904–1940),” as a case study, this article explores preservation practices for early 20th-century vernacular albums. While such albums are a valuable part of any collection, they present many complex preservation challenges due to the variety of materials contained within a single object. Critical questions about cataloging, digitizing, and rehousing methods guide decisions on how to stabilize the album’s fragile condition and allow for access. This case study offers insight for collection managers and archivists who find themselves caring for similar snapshot albums.

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Preserving Patchogue

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Preserving Patchogue

A Small Institution Rehouses and Digitizes Glass Plate Negatives

Daniel J. Menzo

Independent Scholar, Long Island, NY; daniel.menzo@gmail.com

Abstract In 2015, the Greater Patchogue Historical Society in Long Island, New York, received a gift of nearly 2,000 glass plate negatives dating from the early 20th century. While the donor alluded to rare images of this small town and its people, the collection presented a series of preservation concerns. Many of the objects were soiled, and almost all were still in their original acidic paper sleeves. Determined to both protect and utilize the collection, this small institution, with the assistance of a graduate student intern, formalized a preservation plan that also created multiple points of access to the visual and historical information that these objects contained. After minimally cleaning, rehousing, and photographing a selected portion of the negatives, the digital files were later processed with editing software so that the organization’s members and local citizens could see the historic images. In addition to digitizing the negatives, the original sleeves were imaged to preserve valuable information, such as people’s names, the location of views, or a negative’s date. This ongoing project is an example of how smaller institutions can make a meaningful influence in their local communities by preserving photographic objects and implementing methods of digitization.

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Decoding

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Decoding

A Guide to Kodak Paper Surface Characteristics

Erin Fisher

Independent Researcher, Rochester, NY; efphotomail@gmail.com

Abstract From 1880 to 2005, the Eastman Kodak Company manufactured black-and-white fiber-based gelatin silver paper in a wide variety of weights, grades, and formats. Kodak manufacturer records and sample books include details about Kodak paper surface characteristics and are an invaluable resource for understanding photographic paper materials. Using the extensive number of Kodak data books, manuals, and manufacturing records spread out in the collections of three Rochester, New York–based institutions—George Eastman Museum, University of Rochester Special Collections, and Image Permanence Institute—I created a chronological guide to Kodak photographic paper surface characteristics. This guide is not an approximate identification guide for Kodak papers but rather a resource that can be used to fill in gaps and propose questions about Kodak manufacturing history that is no longer easily accessible. The guide aims to help researchers, photography archivists and historians, conservators, collection managers, or anyone else interested in Kodak history gain access to a better understanding of photographic paper produced by Kodak from 1930 to 1955. The process for creating the guide is described in this article and may be used as a starting point for future research while also illuminating the importance of documenting and providing access to technological and material details about photographic objects.

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Tangible Objects versus Digital Interfaces

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Tangible Objects versus Digital Interfaces

Opportunities to Harness the Potential of Augmented Reality to Interact with Photographic Collections in Museums and Archives

Ingrid Forster

Photo Archivist, Photographer, Digital Media Strategist, Master of Digital Media Candidate 2018, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, CN; ingrid@ingridhforster.com

Abstract The use of augmented reality (AR) as an immersive and interactive engagement tool for art and cultural institutions is increasing. AR, when used in a meaningful way, has shown great potential for discovery-based learning experiences. In this article, I consider the potential of AR for photographic collections in museums and archives by addressing two key questions: How can digital tools like AR serve to enhance our understanding of photographs as both object and image? What are the implications and limitations of this technology when used for this purpose?

Sometimes you need to touch something to better understand it, but fulfilling that desire is not always possible. Take photographic objects—interacting with their physicality is seldom possible for researchers and members of the public alike. Photographs are understood as both object and image, a duality that generates debate in terms of how photographs are used for research, how they are exhibited and managed (physically and digitally), and how they are preserved in archives and museum collections. Given this dual status, it is worth considering the use of current digital technology as a means of interacting with photographic collections.

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