Historic Galveston advances no new interpretations
of the city's history; its research
methodologies are quite traditional;
it seldom addresses what a decade
or so ago was called the underside of history.
But that was never its purpose. This
volume sets forth to document and proclaim
the architectural riches of a nineteenth-century
Texas city that barely escaped
total destruction eighty-five years
ago, a city currently in the midst of a restoration
boom. That purpose it achieves
magisterially. Those who know Galveston
will treasure this book; readers unfamiliar
with Galveston will discover what a treasure
the city is. Few books succeed so
John Boles is a professor of history at
Rice University, and editor of the Journal
of Southern History.
Archives and Manuscripts: Administration
of Photographic Collections.
By Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Gerald J.
Munoff, and Margery S. Long. Chicago:
Society of American Archivists, 1984.
173 pp., illustrated, bibliography, index.
The preservation of photographic collections
is more than seeing that the physical
objects survive. A body of intangible information
is associated with the images
which adds to our understanding of the
subjects pictured. Often this information-basic
questions like who, what,
when, and where-may not be answered
by merely looking at the photograph. The
names of photographers and persons rep10
resented, when and where the image was
made, what the photographs were made
for all help us to understand the subjects.
Care must be taken that information on
"disposable" or deteriorating storage
containers is not lost, that memories are
preserved by being written down, and that
less apparent clues about the creation of
images, such as original storage order,
are properly documented and preserved.
Administration of Photographic Collections
is an excellent introduction to
the preservation of both the physical and
abstract qualities of photographic collections.
The book is "directed toward archivists,
manuscript curators, librarians,
picture specialists, and others" (p. 7)
whose jobs are to maintain photo collections.
Anyone interested in photography,
from individuals with small family collections
to curators of major institutions,
will find this book valuable.
The book begins with an overview of the
history of photography. Although this information
is not strictly a part of archival
processing of photographic collections,
the background is important to understanding
the materials being preserved.
The authors have managed to compact
150 years of photographic history into
broad, manageable concepts. The first
chapter covers the aesthetics of the medium.
Different movements and styles of
the medium are placed in a broader context
of understanding photography as historical
documentation, pointing out that
"art" photography can yield as much historical
evidence as "documentary" photography.
The second chapter covers historical
processes and is illustrated with
color reproductions to assist the reader in
identifying the subtle differences between
nineteenth century processes.
Because of the massive numbers of photographs
that have been made (more than
10 billion each year in this country), it is
easy for a historical society or other col
lection to become overwhelmed with
thousands of images. In fact, not all photographs
are of equal value; a difficult
lesson for many collectors to learn is
what is worth saving. To the untrained
eye, important photographs may appear
insignificant. Other images that are aesthetically
attractive may have little historical
relevance. A chapter on appraisal
of photographs and collection policies
can help a collector establish policy to
control an overburdening flood of images.
A separate chapter on legal issues covers
aspects of copyright, rights of privacy,
and more general museum problems such
as transfer of ownership through gift or
The chapter, "Arrangement and Description,"
covers issues relating to the preservation
of the intangible information pertaining
to a photographic collection.
Every step from the planning stage to
sample forms is included. "Preservation
of Photographic Materials" covers the
problems of conserving the physical
objects: negatives, prints, and other
Administration of Photographic Collections
is excellently written and filled
with good information. The book emphasizes
the development of an overall policy
and plan, stresses the importance of preserving
the abstract information "hidden
in the cracks" between photographs, and
makes the procedure concrete by breaking
down management issues into logical and
moderate steps. The book contains a glossary,
an index, an extensive bibliography,
and lists of sources of supplies and sources
of funding. The price ($14 for members
of SAA, $18 for others) is very reasonable.
Hats off to the Society of American
Archivists for what will certainly become
a very important publication.
Richard Pearce-Moses is Historic Photography
Project Coordinator for theTexas
Historical Foundation and a freelance picture
researcher who resides in Austin.
HERITAGE * Fall 1985
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 02, Number 04, Fall 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45445/. Accessed October 2, 2014.