The archival eye: new ways for archivists to look at and describe photographs

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Keenan, Ian
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This thesis argues for new theoretical and methodological approaches to the viewing and description of archival photographs. Many archivists continue to focus on photographic subject content, ignoring photographs’ contexts of creation, context of later use and the multiple ways photographs can be viewed. The thesis first charts the implications of postmodernist viewpoints on archival records generally. It then traces, in the context of the Canadian archival community, the gradual spread of a postmodernist regard for photographs specifically. The thesis then draws on the theories and methodologies of a range of other disciplines to suggest fresh approaches to the viewing and description of photographs. It applies these suggestions to a series of photograph albums held by the Archives of Manitoba. These applied suggestions reveal that photographs are richer archival sources when considered as evidence of both creator and viewer intent rather than as transparent windows onto the past.
photographs, postmodernism, archives, digital, description, albums, punctum, studium