Digital Archiving Resources

A few too many? Some considerations on the digitisation of historical photographic archives

Title

A few too many? Some considerations on the digitisation of historical photographic archives

Subject

Archives

Description

Baylis counters the idea that there are too many digitized historic photographs for public use by stating that there is too little information contextualizing these photographs. Using the Larcom Albums of 19th century Irish prison photographs housed in the New York Public Library’s photographic archive, Baylis reconstructs the original context of the photographs from each album, pointing out the differences in content, photographic style, technique, and description. She also recounts the history of the collection and the shift in meaning and context from when original owner, Larcom first organized and classified the prisoner photographs into an album to when albums transferred to a writer and eventually to the New York Public Library. Each album, while featuring prisoners from the same Irish prison within a similar time period, was unique in its categorization of criminal as opposed to political prisoners. However, because this information was recorded in a manuscript located elsewhere, the superficial visual similarities obscured the significant differences between the two albums. Since digitization of these photographs, they continue to be recreated in meaningful contexts far different from their origins. Genealogists interested in Irish ancestry are the predominant users of this collection, assembling individual photographs and records as an “assemblage” devoid of any “temporal anchoring.” Baylis notes that one of the results of digitization is the tendency to rely on photographs for surface meaning and visual reference, rather than recognize them as trace elements of a past, containing their own rich history and layers of meaning.

Creator

Baylis, Gail

Publisher

MIT

Date

2009-04-17

Contributor

Polk, Victoria

Type

Conference Proceeding

Bibliographic Citation

Baylis, Gail. "A few too many? Some considerations on the digitisation of historical photographic archives." Paper presented at the MIT 6 Conference. Boston, MA,April 24-26 2009. http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/mit6/papers/Baylis.pdf

Files

mit.jpg

Citation

Baylis, Gail, “A few too many? Some considerations on the digitisation of historical photographic archives ,” Digital Archiving Resources, accessed September 25, 2017, http://dar.cah.ucf.edu/items/show/125.