Florence Declaration

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Florence Declaration – Recommendations for the Preservation of Analogue Photo Archives

The Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut wishes to generate a greater understanding of the inescapable value of photographs and analogue archives for the future of studies in historic, human and social sciences.

Only integration between the analogue format and the digital format can guarantee the correct conservation of the photographic heritage for future studies and at the same time the implementation of digital instruments.

Representatives of both the photographic collections and academic research are therefore called on to support and respect the Florence Declaration. The list of subscribers will be published on the website of the Institute and will be updated regularly. You can cancel your subscription at any time sending an email to the address declaration@khi.fi.it.


The Florence Declaration is available in several languages:


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Further Initiatives:

In 2009, the Photothek launched the initiative Photo Archives. The first conference pertaining to this theme was held at The Courtauld Institute in London. A key purpose of the conferences is to look strategically at the management of large photographic collections, using the perspective of their history to face the challenges of the future. At the London meeting representatives of these collections (Courtauld Institute of Art Witt and Conway Photographic Libraries, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Photothek, Frick Art Reference Library, Getty Research Institute, Fondazione Zeri, RKD – Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie) met to discuss strategic planning. The following points were raised.

In order to encourage exchange between the institutions it was also decided that short surveys containing the data of the photographic archives would be published in internet (see below). Photo Archives wishing to participate may contact us by email (caraffa@khi.fi.it or researchforum@courtauld.ac.uk).



The archives are valuable both as active research tools and as historical entities. They contain images that are records within the history of art, but are in themselves objects of study as historical photographs (for example as parts of bequests by major art historians, collectors, or photographers) and also as documents of art historical practices over time.

Photographic archives not only support but they generate research. Each archive has its historical and conceptual logic, which often raises as well as resolve research questions.

Additionally the mounts hold information about the photographs and the objects they represent.



Conservation of negatives and prints is a primary concern. With controlled environments (regarding humidity and temperature) both can be stable over the long term. Variations and developments in photographic techniques present recognised special problems, which are regularly addressed within the archives. Overall it is important to maintain a balance between conservation and consultation of photographs, maintaining access while securing the holdings for the future.



All major archives are involved in digitising projects. The common concern is for the careful conception of these projects so that they select meaningful bodies of material, represent the nature of the archive, respect the different forms and sources of images, and preserve the information on the mounts.

It is necessary to recognise that the material aspect or materiality of the images cannot be completely translated digitally. The digital archive is a complement to not an alternative for the analogue archive.

The conservation of digital data is a problem. Though regular migration of data is a (costly) means of conservation, there is not yet a consensus on internationally recognised best practice or the means to secure the long-term future of data.



Cataloguing is an essential and very expensive component of digitising projects.
Collaboration between institutions in cataloguing projects is desirable. This involves shared standards, agreed terminology and modes of description, and the development of multi-lingual research tools to enable full international exchange.


Access and Copyright

As research libraries, consultation of the archive is generally controlled, but to facilitate continued and future research open access on line is regarded as an important objective.

Copyright and licensing present significant obstacles to this objective. Insistence on the research purposes of consultation and the public missions of given institutions should be viewed as instrumental in breaking the deadlock created by restrictive (and often costly) policies. If image repositories outsource digitization to private companies, their contracts with vendors should stipulate the terms of scholarly use. As regards scholarly access, image repositories should negotiate reduced fees, or waive fees altogether, for scholars.



One premise of these discussions is the importance of exchanging information about the history, holdings, resources, and management of major collections. To that end photo archives are invited to publish surveys on this site and on the site of the Courtauld Institute. To request survey forms please contact either caraffa@khi.fi.it or researchforum@courtauld.ac.uk. See the links for surveys of:

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