on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management
Bangalore, India, UTC- June 1-30, 2004
Week 3: Conservation and Management of Photography
Hon. Lecturer in Non-Western History
University of Basel
A chronology of key technical developments of importance
for mission and church archivists in the USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS
IN THE MEDIA (i.e. photographic reproduction in publications).
Observations from the vantage point of Basel, continued.
remark 1: NB the history of photography is complicated
by the question of how photographs, once taken, could
be used. The paper distributed with reference no.
2A is really about creating a negative. Ways of turning
negatives into positives are not necessarily linked
in terms of the technology used.
remark 2: My main concern here is, however, not the
production of individual photographic positives/prints
but the use of photographs in the media, particularly
printed publications and slide shows.
remark 3: of course the use of photography in missions
was driven by the organisations’ needs as communications
networks. But it is not a good idea to interpret this
statement in a narrow way and argue that mission photography
is solely orientated to fund-raising – that
missions are necessarily pioneer forms of today’s
narrow-minded advertising agencies. Photographs taken
for official use in missions and churches shade over,
in any case, into the personal and family use of photography
by missionaries and indigenous church people and their
families. (NB I claim that in the Basel Mission fascination
in one’s exotic environment was partly expressed
by photography, among missionaries who exercised this
skill. Collections of photographs still in family
hands may well include a broader range of images of
indigenous life than the photographs from the same
photographer held in an official collection). (NB
this all means that a good archivist wonders how the
work of photography was organised in his or her mission
or church, and whether photographs in private hands
can be found which would enhance a church or mission
one. Use of photography in printed publications up
to about 1880/90.
by the results in Basel either there were, up to ca.
1890, no techniques for transferring photographs directly
into book-printing, or they were far too expensive
for a missionary society to use.
this stage you do find situations in which missionary
societies offer to distribute or sell original photographic
prints to their supporters (Bremen Mission in the
1860s, CMS with albums which were sent from hand to
hand among its supporters in the 1870s). But for use
in periodicals photographs were “redrawn”
with chisels and engraving tools on blocks of wood
from which they could be printed. These are known
as “wood engravings”.
shall be showing an example of an original photograph,
and the wood engraving based on it. In Central Europe
it looks as if the engraver who made such engravings
was a high-class craftsman who transferred the “Bildinformation”
– the visual information contained in a photograph
– accurately and to a very high degree.
far as I know none of us have made comprehensive studies
of the history of illustrations in mission periodicals
1840-1900. But if we want to reconstruct the history
of insitutional photography relevant to our churches
for which the originals have gone missing –
or which have dropped back into a mass of unorganised
photographs from many epochs found in some remote
cupboard – this is one important starting place.
2 ca. 1890 to the present
1900 direct transfer of photographs into book- and
periodical printing was normal.....no doubt people
interested in 20th century technology could work out
the chronology of the key developments which have
resulted, step by step, in the glossy coloured periodicals
most of our organisations in Europe seem to put out
are, however, other important media of PR and information
which use visual resources and which an archivist
needs to remember
are, however, two other important media for PR and
ifnromation which use visual resources, and which
an archivist needs to remember.
medium to which we should pay careful attention is
the slide-show/lecture. Until recently this was still
a king-pin of the Basel Mission’s contact with
congregational groups supporting it. I am not sure
exactly when the first slide-shows were produced,
but it will evidently have been before the end of
the 19th century. And more or less contemporaneously,
it seems to me, slide shows were in use in overseas
evangelism using pictures illustrating biblical stories.
is worth while remembering, if you are an archivist
with contacts to the “homeland” of missionaries
who worked in your church, that old provincial mission
centres in Europe and North America sometimes turn
out to have stacks of dusty materials needing to be
tidied away. And these may include old slide shows
packed in the characteristic stout wooden boxes used
to transport them. These are very precious. They give
us an insight into the kind of photographs mission
organisations endeavoured to possess, and how they
used them. NB in Basel (and I think everywhere) a
slide show was accompanied by someone reading out
a prepared script with comments on every photograph.
(By about 1970 these comments were put on tapes with
musical accompaniment). So these materials not only
give an important insight into the photographs in
use, but also how people saw and interpreted them.
form of medium is outside my experience, and outside
the framework of the theme I have been given –
film. NB cine photography is also applied to mission
surprisingly early – the 1910s and 1920s in
central europe. Our ancestors were innovative characters
who tried to keep up with the latest developments
in communication. NB for me FILM requires expert treatment
and conservation, especially if there is an intention
to use old film for current public work. This is a
field in which national film archives or partners
in Europe/USA should be asked for
their help and financial assistance!!