Photo-Objects – Photographs as (Research) Objects in Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History
Archaeology, art history and ethnology are connected not only by their common institutionalisation around 1900, but also by their use of photographs as substitutes for the objects of their research. Based on the most recent studies on the materiality of photographs and photo archives, the research project understands documentary photographs as three-dimensional objects formed by historical processes that operate as repositories of sedimented knowledge in social and cultural contexts. It aims to show in a comparative investigation how the formation of methods in the humanities, the development and dissemination of photographic techniques, and the establishment of specialised photo archives in the decades before and after 1900 were mutually dependent. The focus here is on techniques and practices of scholarly work on and with photographs. The latter lead a double existence as objects: they are indexical representations of objects, and at the same time they are themselves 'talking' objects. The project will explore the scholarly potential of photo archives in museums, universities and research institutes, as well as develop a model for the cross-departmental networking of different collections.
The project will investigate the following subsections in the respective collections: the photographic documentation of archaeological excavation campaigns in Greece and Asia Minor (SMB – PK, Antikensammlung), architectural photographs from the USA and Europe ca. 1900 (SMB – PK, Sammlung Fotografie, Kunstbibliothek), the Hahne-Niehoff ethnological photo archive (Humboldt-Universität, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie), and the photographic documentation of applied arts (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Photothek).