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Thursday, May 13 • 11:10am - 12:30pm
26. International Perspectives on Photo Archives Documenting the Transformation of Cultural-Heritage Sites

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Since the invention of photography, this medium has been used in archaeological missions and surveys to document the process of discovery, mapping, and interpretation of historic sites. The photo archives collected by art libraries over several decades can be used to analyze how archaeological and cultural-heritage sites have changed over time, due to urbanization, neglect, or destruction, particularly in conflict zones.

What do these archives tell us about the discovery, transformation and reception of the cultural- heritage landscape? How have archaeological and historic buildings been documented in different parts of the world? Who are the agents of discovery and documentation that created these archives?

The panel organized by the International Relations Committee offers cross-cultural perspectives on how heritage sites have been transformed, across geographic boundaries and historical periods, with four case studies focusing on the Middle East region, Italy, and the city of Havana, Cuba.

Moderators: Spyros Koulouris, and Isotta Poggi (Q&A)

Broadening Perspectives on the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria: Contextualizing and Opening Photographic Archives

March 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the ongoing Syrian civil war. The UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria recognizes the significance of 40 of the 700 villages dating to the first–seventh centuries CE located in the region; they were placed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage in danger in 2013. This region came to wider scholarly attention as a result of the publications from Howard Crosby Butler’s survey expeditions to this region at the turn of the twentieth century. The publications and the expeditions' photographic records were critical to establishing a canon of architectural remains on which scholars continue to rely. In 2016, Dumbarton Oaks’ Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) acquired a collection of 8,000 photographs of over 100 sites from this region taken in the 1990s by the historian Frank Kidner, which complements ICFA’s holdings of a copy of the Butler photographs as well as other collections documenting late Roman and Medieval monuments in Syria. Kidner’s travels were inspired both by Butler’s publications and a personal interest in the development of early Christian architecture. Kidner’s interests should, however, not be seen as entirely independent from his familiarity with Butler’s publications, which presented a strong focus on the Christian architectural remains, notwithstanding that domestic architecture was the largest surviving architectural type in the region. Despite Kidner’s prioritization of the Christian remains, his photographs also provide evidence of everyday life in rural settlements of the twentieth century. Given the current situation in Syria, such photographic archives offer critical resources for scholars studying the distant and recent past. At the same time, cataloguing approaches have an important influence on how these archives are received and what exposure these images get. This talk considers how archival collections can perpetuate scholarly biases and offers suggestions of how to address these imbalances by employing strategies such as uploading our collection to Wikimedia and establishing Wikidata entries in order to benefit from crowdsourcing.

Speakers: Bettina Smith and Stephanie Caruso

The Contribution of Early Photo-Archives to the Conservation of the Archaeological Heritage: The Case-Study of K.A.C. Creswell’s Photographs of the Near East 

Early photo-archives are becoming more and more a primary source of information for Near Eastern archaeology. This trend is undoubtedly positive for the archaeological discipline. However, archive studies require precise skills in archive methods, established cataloguing procedures, and shared standards on the systems for publishing data, in order to fully exploit the potential of their information. Currently, the archaeological community looks with increasing attention to archives, but has not yet established enough the common practices as for their management, particularly as regards the publication of data. The present contribution concentrates on a specific source of information, i.e. the early photographs taken in the 1920s by K.A.C. Creswell in Mesopotamia, Syria and Jordan. The illustrated examples aims to point out the main types of information that can be inferred from early photo-archives: the state of the monuments prior to recent damage or destruction processes; the reconstruction of the provenance of archaeological items; the history of conservation interventions on a monument, if any; the modification of the landscape in which the monuments currently stand – just to quote the main ones. 

Speaker: Stefano Anastasio

Personal Photographic Archives: Involuntary Witnesses 

The Photographic Archive of the American Academy in Rome consists of several invaluable and specialized collections of photographs on archaeology, architecture and art, as well as landscape architecture. They represent an exceptional record of the activity of notable personalities, master photographers as well as scholars, active from the second half of the 19th century to recent times. Created either by an archaeologist, an architect, or an art historian - someone who captures an event in the course of investigating his or her own research or travel documentation - a personal photographic archive may become an invaluable documentary source for studying historic and archaeological sites.

The purpose of this presentation is to illustrate the importance of specific personal photographic archives (those of Esther B. Van Deman, Ernest Nash and of Richard W. Ayers, among others) as coincidental witnesses of the transformation of cultural heritage sites, mostly in Italy, from the beginning of the 20th century through post-WWII.

Speaker: Lavinia Ciuffa

The Havana Archive Project: A Project of Perseverance

Just over a year ago at the start of 2020, the Hampshire College Library launched the Havana Archive Project, an Open Access digital photographic archive containing over 8,000 photographs of the 1,055 most significant buildings in the Historic Center of Havana, Cuba (as determined by Dr. Eusebio Leal, Director of the Office of the Historian) at the beginning of the restoration of Havana in the early 1980s.

Begun in 2012, the project was a collaboration between Jacqueline Hayden, Professor Emerita of Film and Photography, and students from Hampshire College with Plan Maestro, Office of the Historian. The digital archive is hosted by the Five College Compass: Digital Collections and the Center for Research Libraries.

The Center for Research Libraries’ Latin American Materials Project (LAMP) awarded Hampshire College a grant back in 2015 to create metadata and complete the digitization of the thousands of photographs documenting these buildings (declared World Heritage Monuments by UNESCO in 1982) in the center of Havana.

This presentation will talk about the timeline of the project, how many collaborators it took to come to fruition, and then a case study in how the Havana Archive Project was used in a class at Hampshire College in the fall of 2020.

Speakers: Rachel Beckwith and Jacqueline Hayden

avatar for Spyros Koulouris

Spyros Koulouris

Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies at Athens
avatar for Isotta Poggi

Isotta Poggi

Associate Curator of Photographs, Getty Research Institute

avatar for Bettina Smith

Bettina Smith

Manager, Image Collections & Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks

Stephanie Caruso

Postdoctoral Fellow in Byzantine Art and Archaeology, Dumbarton Oaks
avatar for Lavinia Ciuffa

Lavinia Ciuffa

Photographic Archive Curator, American Academy in Rome
avatar for Rachel Beckwith

Rachel Beckwith

Director, Harold F. Johnson Library, Hampshire College
avatar for Stefano Anastasio

Stefano Anastasio

Archaeologist, Ministero della Cultura, Soprintendenza, Firenze
Archaeologist, specialist in Ancient Near East. Currently storehouse-keeper of the archaeological deposits and in charge of the digitization of the archaeological photo-archive of the Superintendency of Florence. He participated in archaeological excavations and surveys in Italy... Read More →

Jacqueline Hayden

Professor Emerita of Film and Photography, Hampshire College, CA, United States, and Director of the Havana Archive Project; Project Director of PRAHA, Puerto Rico Architectural Heritage Archive

Thursday May 13, 2021 11:10am - 12:30pm EDT