One of the most important books on photography and museums was published last year at Ashgate: Uncertain Images: Museums and the Work of photographs, It is a book that brings ”into focus the ubiquitous yet entirely unconsidered work that photographs are put to in museums.”
Photographs have through the decades been acquired by museums, and depending on the contemporary museum practices they have changed from scientific evidence, to documentation, to art, and also representations of museum objects.
So what is the different between a museum object and a photograph in the museum collections (and why does it matter)? First photographs are rarely documented on an object level and neither digitized as single objects – this indicates a different status than the objects that are always documented individually.
Secondly they are reproducible and as such they lack originality as an historical object. , ”with their authenticity, originality and cultural capital suspect, photographs, for the most part, lie outside the systems of value that produces museum objects. They sit low in that hierarchy.”
Thirdly, they are not considered as part of the holy object collections, but rather clotted together with documents, and placed in the Museum Archive.
Despite this uncertain and ambiguous status of photographs, they are today central to the museum’s own narrative.
The book Uncertain Images challenges the lack of attention to the roles, purposes and lives of the mass of humble photographs within museums.
The digital aspect of the role of photographs in museums are, in part, adressed by myself in Chapter 13: Digital Dilemmas: The Impact of Digital Tools on Photograph Collections. More on that topic in an upcoming blog post.
Blog post 8/100 #Blogg100 Challenge