Online Exhibition

Archival Practices in the Photothek

An Online Exhibition of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Archives are no temples of memory where documents of the past are simply preserved. They are rather places where documents are produced, transformed, and reconfigured to be passed on to future generations, as well as to find new uses for them. These processes of the production and continuous transformation of (photographic) documents are the result of a series of archiving practices which are predetermined yet dynamic: grids and processes which have been strictly applied in the Photothek from the beginning but at the same time constantly adapted to the particular needs. Sometimes they are the result of initiatives of enlightened archivists, sometimes of adjustments to a new location and at other times they are about creating better conservation conditions: the scheme which was developed in the first fifteen years after the institute’s founding in 1897 has remained in use to this day but at the same time undergone several changes. One of them is the advent of digital technology, which is touched on only marginally in this online exhibition – enough, however, to show the coexistence of the digital and analogue archives. The systems of values determining the biographies of the photo-objects over time are reflected in the classification system, but also in the smallest archival routines. They are often closely linked to the practices of academic disciplines, museums and the art market and sometimes need to be reconstructed in an almost archaeological manner. An analysis of archival practices sheds light on the agency of archivists, as it develops in the Photothek’s ecosystem.

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