Photographs, Museums, Collections. Beetwen Art and Information

Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton (eds)
Photographs, Museums, Collections. Beetwen Art and Information
2015, London-New York, Bloomsbury

The status of photographs in the history of museum collections is a complex one. From its very beginnings the double capacity of photography – as a tool for making a visual record on the one hand and an aesthetic form in its own right on the other – has created tensions about its place in the hierarchy of museum objects. While major collections of ‘art’ photography have grown in status and visibility, photographs not designated ‘art’ are often invisible in museums. Yet almost every museum has photographs as part of its ecosystem, gathered as information, corroboration or documentation, shaping the understanding of other classes of objects, and many of these collections remain uncatalogued and their significance unrecognised.

This volume presents a series of case studies on the historical collecting and usage of photographs in museums. Using critically informed empirical investigation, it explores substantive and historiographical questions such as what is the historical patterning in the way photographs have been produced, collected and retained by museums? How do categories of the aesthetic and evidential shape the history of collecting photographs? What has been the work of photographs in museums? What does an understanding of photograph collections add to our understanding of collections history more broadly? What are the methodological demands of research on photograph collections?

The case studies cover a wide range of museums and collection types, from art galleries to maritime museums, national collections to local history museums, and international perspectives including Cuba, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK. Together they offer a fascinating insight into both the history of collections and collecting, and into the practices and poetics of archives across a range of disciplines, including the history of science, museum studies, archaeology and anthropology.

Table of Contents

1. Between Art and Information: Introduction, Elizabeth Edwards (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK) and Christopher Morton (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK)

2. Multiple Collections and Fluid Meanings: Alfred Maudslay’s Archaeological Photographs at the British Museum, Duncan Shields (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
3. Self Assembled: Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Photographic Albums and the Development of her Museum, 1902-1924, Casey Riley (Boston University, USA)
4. ‘An Invitation to Visit Windermere’: Moments of Departure and Return in the Biography of the Bryan Heseltine Collection, Darren Newbury (University of Brighton, UK)
5. Private to Public: the David MacGregor Maritime Photographic Collection, Eleni Papavasileiou (SS Great Britain Trust, UK)

6. Collecting Portraiture, Exhibiting Race: Augustus Pitt-Rivers’s Photographs at the South Kensington Museum, Christopher Morton (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK)
7. Collecting Photographs, Constructing Disciplines: the Rationality and Rhetoric of Photography at the Museum of Economic Botany, Caroline Cornish (Royal Holloway, UK)
8. Photographs as Scientific and Social Objects in the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Geoff Belknap (University of Leicester) and Sophie Defrance (University of Cambridge)

9. Revolutionary photographs: the Museo de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba, Kristine Juncker (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
10. Photography in Jersey under German Occupation: the 1940 ‘Order Concerning Open-air Photography’ and Photography at the Société Jersiaise Museum, Gareth Syvret (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
11. From Them to Us: Changing Meanings of Photographs of Mäori at Te Papa, Athol Mc Credie (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa)

12. Unwrapping the Layers: Translating Photograph Albums into an Exhibition Context, Ulrike Bessel (DASA Working World Exhibition in Dortmund, Germany)
13. To Collect and Preserve Negatives: the Eli Lotar Collection at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Damarice Amao (Paris Sorbonne, France)
14. Looking for Bolton in the Worktown Archive, Caroline Edge (Bolton Museum/University, UK)

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