A Conference held by the Museums and Galleries History Group/Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester, 02 March 2013
The status of photographs in the history of museum collections is a complex one. From the inception of the medium its double capacity as an aesthetic form and as a recording medium created tensions about its place in the hierarchy of museum objects. While museums had been amassing photographs since about 1850, it was, for instance, only in the 1970s that the first senior curators of photographs were appointed in UK museums. On the one hand major collections of ‘art’ photography have grown in status and visibility, while photographs not designated ‘art’ are often invisible in museums. On the other hand almost every museum has photographs as part of its ecosystem, gathered as information, corroboration or documentation, shaping the understanding of other classes of objects. Many of these collections remain uncatalogued and their significance unrecognised. However recent years have seen an increasing interest in the histories of these humble objects, both their role in collections histories and their histories in their own right.
This one-day meeting, a collaboration between MGHG and the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester, will explore the substantive and historiographical questions around museum collections of photographs. How do categories of the aesthetic and evidential shape the history of collecting photographs? What are the implications of shifts in these categories? 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?
Details of the day will be posted in December 2012.