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What IS Archival

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  • What IS Archival

    Archival is a word which gets tossed around alot, yet seems to have a rather vague meaning. Especially when dealing with photographs, the word seems to have meanings and implications beyond the usual. For example, when we talk about Archiving a photo, are we concerned with preserving the original, or the information the original contains or both, and is archival a term simply limited to the way in which the photo/info is kept or does it refer to a specific idea, like length of time? What about the medium used to store the information/document? Does a scanned copy have the same value and importiance as an original? How does this all fit in with our work of restoration? Thoughts anyone......

  • #2
    There ya go, making me think again! I think archiving means different things to different people. By that I mean I've heard people talk about archiving a photo on a CD, but to a curator of a museum, that wouldn't work. In my case it means keeping the *original* photo in the best possible conditions. This would include the storage conditions, and archival medium the photo is kept in. It means to preserve the original as it is today, using the best available materials and techniques. Will it last for five hundred years? Who knows how long we can really make it last? We can only do our best. A hundred years from now they might discover that our practices of today have proven faulty. As restoration artists, I think we should provide the information to the client about proper keeping of the original and the restored print. Going beyond that would probably only be for something of historical importance, which the client would be more likely to pay for. Just my thoughts.

    Ed

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    • #3
      I've always thought of archiving as preserving the 'information' within the image the media of course being variable. Thanks to electronic media I can view Van Goghs 'Cornfield' on the internet the information from the artists original having been archived in electronic form or viewed in a printed form. I think 'preservation' applies to the handling of the original media. No doubt 'original' work say a drawing created in Coraldraw is both created and archived in the same form.

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      • #4
        One of the under appreciated powers of this digital revolution is that even thought the original paper, silver and binder may crumble to dust, the image along with all the information and emotion it contains and evokes can be kept safe and intact, if there is interest enough on the part of folks like us to push in that direction. Every photo, regardless of content and subject has a definate Historical and emotional value and by properly copying them and storing them along with taking, or suggesting to the owner, what prudent steps to follow to preserve the original, that information wont be lost, and, because of the unique "keeping" quality and versitility of a digital image, copys for display can be quickly and efficently made for almost any medium desired. The value of the photo, to me at least, is in the information contained, not the medium it is preserved in. Most of the film footage seen on TV of WW1 and WW2, the Depression years, Czarist Russia you name it , has been digitized as the original nitrate based film is so badly deteriorated that in some cases it is useless. The copy now serves as a vibrant link with the past...with far more impact than a thousand volumns of written description ever can. The impact of the images is not diminished because copied digitally...in all cases it is enhanced due to the ability to remove scratches, dust, fingerprints etc.. Preservation of the originals is importiant and part of that is getting the best digital copy you can and saving it, and resaving it as the technology advances while keeping the original stored in the best manner possible to insure its continued existance. Displaying copys does not, to me anyhow, diminish the attractiveness and nostalgia of the scene portrayed and serves to safe guard an irreplacable part of human history, whether that scene is the sinking of a battleship or a fuzzy photo of children at play at a picnic, now 30 years gone... both images are unique and part of human history.These are just my thoughts and quite possibly not entirely correct... Guess I've rambled on enough, time to put the soap box away.... Tom
        Last edited by thomasgeorge; 01-03-2002, 02:38 PM.

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        • #5
          While I agree that the information contained in a photograph is certainly the most important thing, I don't think we can seperate the information from the medium used, and still say that we've archived the photograph. There is no doubt at all that the information contained will always have importance whether it is found on the original surface or it is found digitally or in some other form. Remove the information from the original medium it was found on, and what's left has very little if any value to anyone. In most cases, proper digital enhancement can be more true than an old photograph to the original information that has deteriorated over time. Keeping that information intact, it seems, would be much easier (and better) done digitally than keeping the entire photograph in safe keeping. That being said, I still think the whole package needs to be kept intact in order to truthfully say we've archived the photograph, unless of course the original photograph was digital to begin with.

          Ed

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          • #6
            "Nothing lasts forever" I think it very important to try a preserve the original in the best way possible but I also believe the information contained on that original should be copied as well because "nothing lasts forever". If by some chance that original is destroyed having saved the information would be all you have left. There are other reasons for making copies as well. Think of the great works of art and how many people can appreciate them even though they have never had the opportunity to see the originals thanks to copies. It's a way of bringing those rare items to the masses. So I would say in this case, why not have the best of both worlds. Preserve the original but copy for safe keeping.
            DJ

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            • #7
              Exactly what I was trying to say. It just took a lot more words.

              Ed

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              • #8
                Didn't I read somewhere that about 80% of the glass plate negatives taken during your Civil War were used as glass in greenhouses ?

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                • #9
                  Yes...After the Surrender of Lee's Army and the collapse of the Confederacy, thousands of glass plate negatives were sold as scrap, mostly to folks who built green houses out of 'em. Ken Burns in his documentary about the Civil War makes mention of this in passing... trying to imagine the historical value of what was lost by this action is mind boggling... Tom

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                  • #10
                    Archives, at least in my understanding of the purpose, must involve the conservation and preservation of the originals as it's primary objective.

                    While there are many advantages to digital copy. for example the ease of sorting, cataloging, distribution and low cost reproduction, the electronic image will also always be subject to manulipulation and therefore "controversial" in providing historic data.

                    Collectors and historians, I'm reasonably certain, will never place a high value on digital images beyond their immediate use, it is just too easy to create fakes.

                    Jim Conway

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