Posted by: stackedfivehigh | February 22, 2010

Another day, another 178 photos

Back to the museum Friday after a couple weeks of blizzard and impassable streets.  There is still a remarkable amount of snow piled on the sides of the road, and sometimes still taking up entire lanes, but it was possible to get downtown again.

Today I was thinking about the distinction between the regular archivist’s duties, and those of the photo archivist.  One would think it was evident in having ‘photo’ in the title, but apparently everything having to do with the institutional archives are done by the regular archivist.  So what does that mean to us? It means I spent the day doing photo archive work for the regular archivist.

I spent the afternoon going through institutional (as opposed to historic) archive folders, sequencing, numbering, and rehousing them.  I’ve already done this for the photo archivist, except now I was going through unorganized photos, trying to see if there is a logical sequence to them.  In most of the folders today there wasn’t really, so it was just numbering them in whatever order they were in. Sometimes it was hard to admit there was no real sequence, like for an awards banquet.  I don’t know the sequence in which things happened, but could at least organize similar photographs together.  Speeches at the podium were together, group shots, mingling at cocktail hour, etc.  Trying to decide which type should come first was something I could spend too much time on, and had to admit didn’t really matter.

Once they were put in order and numbered appropriately (I’m pretty sure I’m going to be writing ‘IA 3.0175, IA 3.0176,… in my sleep), each photo was put in an archival-quality sleeve  for protection.  Pretty straightforward drone work, but necessary.

I was also introduced to the idea of ‘weeding’ which also only seems to exist for the institutional archives.  I got to throw stuff away!  Apparently there were some camera-happy people who saved every single photo of the same thing.  There are seven rolls of film of a sculptor and a plaque he made.  The museum’s rule is to save three of each.  As I went through the folder, I would keep three instances of: working on plaque, standing in front of plaque smiling, close-up of working on plaque, etc.  while trying to get as different pictures as I could between the three.  There are several dozen photographs waiting for disposal by the time I was done.

If this had been historic archives – a collection that wasn’t for internal purposes – we would have kept every single photo.  As I was told, there is potential value in every photograph, even in just knowing that someone wanted to keep 15 copies of the same picture.

Pretty straightforward work.  My only complaint was leaving the mp3 player at home.  It’s completely silent in the library, which drives me crazy after awhile.  I’m considering getting a cheap player to keep in the car, like I do with a back-up wrist brace.

Next month I’m going to go do docent training on a few exhibits.  I figure it will be interesting, and it’s always good to be trained in as many things as possible.


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