on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management
Bangalore, India, UTC- June 1-30, 2004
3: Conservation and Management of Photography
Hon. Lecturer in Non-Western History
University of Basel
Some practical implications of this outline review
of the history of photography and reproduction
archivist needs to be aware that 150 years ago photography
was a rare and difficult craft.
also needs to reflect on the fact that it has become,
in recent decades, a huge international industry and
an activity in which there are many professionals,
but also hundreds of millions of ordinary people walking
around the world with cameras in their hands. Indeed,
they say that, at the moment, in a relatively small
country like Sweden, one million photographs are taken
each day on average, every day of the year. In countries
where average incomes are smaller the numbers of photographs
being taken will be less. But they will still have
grown exponentially since the Second World War.
we need mental guidelines for our work. These will
be somewhat different for each different archive,
each different situation. But they will need to address
the following questions:
when do photographs stop being rare documents in the
regions which my particular archive covers?
how do I cope with the problem of the vast flood of
photographs being produced almost everywhere by the
end of the 20th century?
Basel we say that for the regions where we collect
photographs they stop being rare documents in about
1914. Up to that date we collect virtually everything
we can lay hands on (including albums in which photographs
have seriously faded or decayed, and including photographs
which are technically not very good). From that date
on, however, we are going to have to be selective
in deciding what to keep. And in my opinion every
archive will have to develope at least informal guidelines
about selection. Though the date when scarcity turns
to plenty may well be different in every region.
is, however, a difficult skill. What criteria do you
apply for selecting photographs to become part of
your archive, and for deciding what photographs to
turn away? My only advice is to be broader, rather
than narrow, in your selections.
Don’t be trapped, for instance, into collecting
only photographs of church buildings and portraits
of christian individuals and groups.
Don’t forget that researchers can sometimes
take a photograph which seems to you quite boring
and insignficant, and make it a photograph of real
significance. If in doubt, include a photograph or
an album IN!! We should have a place in our hearts
and archives for the unusual!
remember that the church serves society - that is
part of Christian outreach. Remember that the gospel
comes to its full meaning for the people around us
when it supports and guides them in their lives. So
the church fellowship reaches out beyond its narrow
institutional life. In a rural area, for instance,
the church as institution may be concerned about the
economic viability of farming families, or the survival
of the families of rural labourers, or the standards
of local traditional courts with their traditional
local officials. As archivists we should be interested
in documenting the contexts in which our churches
work, and that applies to photographs too.
remember the archivists’ outreach! One of the
important tasks of a church archive is pull interesting
non-christian researchers into contact with the church
and its fellowship. And we don’t do that by
running archives which are narrowly ecclesiastical.
J. Basel 9.6.2004