Into the Archive
On the Materiality of Photographs
An Online-Exhibition of the BMBF-Project "Photo-Objects. Photographs as (Research) Objects In Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History"
Archives do not just passively conserve photographs but also actively transforms them into material objects. It is from this perspective that the present Online Exhibition draws light on four academic photo-archives: namely, the archive of the Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, with a photographic documentation of the archaeological excavations of the Greek cities of Magnesia on the Maeander and Pergamon; the Sammlung Fotografie of the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, with two groups of architectural photographs dating around 1900; the Hahne-Niehoff ethnographical photo-archive at the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at the Humboldt-University in Berlin; and the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, focusing in particular on its applied arts section. These four institutions are also partners in the collaboration project "Photo-Objects. Photographs as (Research) Objects in Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History" funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project combines methodological approaches of "material culture" with a comparative viewpoint. More particularly photo-objects are compared as three-dimensional, material artefacts, which are actively engaged in social and cultural contexts and in their scientific use in the disciplines represented by the project. The aim here is not least to deconstruct the presumed neutrality of documentary photographs, since the positivistic rhetoric of scientific (photo-) objectivity may lend itself easily to forms of exploitation and abuse, as the racist implications of the photographic surveys preserved in the Hahne-Niehoff Archive make clear. For photo-objects are not objective.