Challenges and successes of cultural heritage photography shared at Forum

Imaging Services at The Alexander Turnbull Library recently hosted the third annual meeting of New Zealand Photographers of Cultural Collections. The forum is an opportunity to learn and share the work being done in the field of cultural heritage photography and was set up to build a community to enable networking, support and collaboration by photographers working in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.

In the morning speakers shared their experiences under the theme of ‘Successes and Challenges’.

Jo Carter from Carterworks Ltd discussed her work as photo restoration artist, touching on the individual nature of each job, the complexities of rebuilding damaged photographs, the care and attention and time which this takes, and the need often to advise clients on care of their own collections.

Jo Carter, Carterworks Ltd speaking about her work as photo restoration artist. Photo: Mark BeattyJo Carter, Carterworks Ltd speaking about her work as photo restoration artist. Photo: Mark Beatty

Rebekah Rogers from New Zealand Micrographic Services shared recent experiences on a large scale digitisation project. She discussed the importance of planning, their use of a pilot test to work on technical requirements and workflows. It is essential to work closely with your client in planning general logistics such as managing movement of collections, data storage requirements, and agreeing a quality assurance process, in order to eliminate potential points of failure.

Rebekah Rogers shared the work being done by  New Zealand Micrographic Services Ltd, NZMS touching on the planning,logistics and challenges of managing large scale digitisation projects. Photo: Mark BeattyRebekah Rogers shared the work being done by New Zealand Micrographic Services Ltd, NZMS touching on the planning,logistics and challenges of managing large scale digitisation projects. Photo: Mark Beatty

Mark Beatty from Imaging Services at the Alexander Turnbull Library reflected on his role as a cultural heritage photographer over 10 years and posed some questions: What is our responsibility to collections once digitised? How do we support new technologies and demands for increased access? Are there opportunities to collaborate within our field? How do we contribute to telling stories about the collections and work we do?

Mark Beatty from Imaging Services shares some thoughts on his career as a photographer at the Library.Mark Beatty from Imaging Services shares some thoughts on his career as a photographer at the Library. Photo: Llewelyn Jones

Jennifer Carol, Andrew Hales, and Daan Hoffmann, from the Collections Imaging Team at Auckland Museum, introduced their dedicated configurable studio setups and a selection of more than 30,000 collection items they have photographed over the last couple of years. They have brought their experiences as commercial photographers to develop lighting setups for anything from eggs, pocket watches, firearms, to bird mounts, and larger natural history specimens. Having a default open access policy has also inspired some creative macro imagery of collection items which is now being used as part of branding for Auckland Museum.

Jennifer Carol, Andrew Haines, and Daan Hoffmann, shared their work at Auckland museum, which involves photographing anything from a pocket watch, to natural history specimens such as bird mounts, allowing for beautiful details from birds feathers.Jennifer Carol, Andrew Hales, and Daan Hoffmann, shared their work at Auckland museum, which involves photographing anything from a pocket watch, to natural history specimens such as bird mounts, allowing for beautiful details from birds feathers. Photo: Mark Beatty

Melissa Irving, Te Papa, discussed her experience of working on four different negative digitisation projects.Melissa Irving, Te Papa, discussed her experience of working on four different negative digitisation projects. Photo: Mark Beatty

Melissa Irving, from Collection Imaging at Te Papa shared her experience working on four negative digitisation projects, from using a high-end drum scanner, DSLR and lightbox setup, to medium format camera with scanning kit. Each project has had differing requirements, content, formats and workflows. Challenges have included managing stitching of panoramic negatives, dealing with processing of colour negatives, whilst successfully developing workflows with new hardware and software.

Ruth Oliver, Conservator Photographs discussing the care, handling and treatment of photographic negatives.Ruth Oliver, Conservator Photographs discussing the care, handling and treatment of photographic negatives. Photo: Mark Beatty

Laura Mirebeau, Conservator Books/Paper, demonstrating the potential digitisation challenges with a collection item that has tighter binding.Laura Mirebeau, Conservator Books/Paper, demonstrating the potential digitisation challenges with a collection item that has tighter binding. Photo: Mark Beatty

In the afternoon the Collection Care team discussed challenges faced in digitising photographic negatives, works on paper, manuscripts, rare books, fine printing and the role of the Conservation team in care and support of this process.

Following this there was a visit to the Imaging Services studios to hear about elements of our public order requests and planned programme of digitisation work; whilst seeing the studio setups for larger formats, manuscripts, negatives, and panoramic negatives. There were broad discussions on topics such as dealing with specular highlights, which is caused when light reflects off paint on artwork causing excessive glare, book covers and bindings, usage of targets and digitisation standards.

Checking out the main studio setup in Imaging Services with Mark Beatty and Alicia Tolley. Photo: Matthew Sullivan, RNZF Photographs ArchivistChecking out the main studio setup in Imaging Services with Mark Beatty and Alicia Tolley. Photo: Matthew Sullivan RNZF Photographs Archivist

There was an opportunity to view some of the collection items undergoing digitisation for public order or programme requests digitisation. There was an opportunity to view some of the collection items undergoing digitisation for public order or programme requests digitisation. Photo: Mark Beatty

During the day the group had an opportunity to discuss the role of the forum and how we communicate and engage with our community collectively.

The day was a wonderful opportunity for our growing group to meet, share and discuss the important work of digitising heritage collections throughout New Zealand.

If you are interested in learning more about the forum please email imtech@dia.govt.nz

Group photograph of attendees at the third annual forum of New Zealand Photographers of Cultural Collections at The National Library of New Zealand.Group photograph of attendees at the third annual forum of New Zealand Photographers of Cultural Collections at The National Library of New Zealand. Photo: Mark Beatty

By Mark Beatty

Mark is Photographer / Imaging Technician who celebrated 10 years at the Library this year.

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