Photographs: Archival Principles and Practices

This course has been retired.
Certificate Eligibility: 
10 ARC, 1.5 CEU
2 days
Max Attendees: 
Tactical and Strategic

Photographs are heavily used resources in an archives, yet many professionals lack any specialized training to deal with them effectively. This introductory course teaches the basics of managing and caring for photographs. Discover how to apply standard archival techniques to photographs in eight modules: reading and researching; identification and handling; preservation, storage, and housing; appraising and acquiring; accessioning and arrangement; description and cataloging; copying and digitization; and public service and outreach.


This is the first in a series of courses based on the SAA publication Photographs: Archival Care and Management by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Connor, with contributions by Helena Zinkham, Kit Peterson, and Brett Carnell.

Learning Outcomes: 
Apply basic archival concepts to specific work with photographs
Identify resources and techniques for understanding photographs, such as researching unidentified photographs or identifying common photo processes
Learn about photograph preservation risks and concerns, such as environmental requirements and the inherent vice of nitrate- and acetate-based films
Become aware of archival housing and storage options for photographic materials
Learn about photograph copy services and digitization planning
Discover tools, practices, and standards for processing and describing photographs
Set priorities and make informed choices in appraisal and strategic planning, including consideration of legal and ethical concerns
Understand special considerations for using photographs in reference and opportunities to incorporate them in outreach
Who Should Attend: 

Archivists, curators, librarians, records managers, and other professionals who work with photograph collections

What You Should Already Know: 

Participants should be familiar with basic archival practice. This course presents the fundamental principles of administering photograph collections and, although subjects such as cataloging and digitization are discussed, participants will need additional coursework to gain a thorough understanding of specific topics.

A&D Core Competency: 
1. Arrangement: Understand the process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order to protect their context and facilitate access.
2. Description: Analyze and describe details about the attributes of a record or collection of records to facilitate identification, management, and understanding of the work.
3. Descriptive Standards: Apply rules and practices that codify the content of information used to represent archival materials in discovery tools according to published structural guidelines.
4. Management: Demonstrate ability to manage physical and intellectual control over archival materials.
“I really appreciated the emphasis on 'it depends' and that you have to make informed decisions based on your situation. There's not always (or usually) only one way! The practical little details and advice about specific questions—like actually looking at various formats of photos [and] being able to recognize them (some of them!) and feeling knowledgeable about caring for them. ... Also, I was happy to learn about many resources for future questions.” — Elizabeth Howe
Most valuable aspect: “Discussion of preservation techniques for photographs based on their makeup, including digital photographs. Inherent issue with photo collections often are not covered in detail in archives literature.”
Most valuable aspect: “Distinguishing the types of photographs and negatives. Learning the methods of preservation of the various types of photographs.” — Tammy Hampton
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