Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Museum Photographs - Internet Publishing

A revisit of the problem of photography in publicly funded museums - and who controls the rights to images:

I had made a commentary on this issue some time back (see 'Photography in Museums', June 5, 2005). In a nut shell, the conflict was centred around use of 'casual' photographs taken of open public collections. A major complication is the often desperate lack of funding for those same institutions.

I have been personally involved in many aspects of this problem, as a private researcher, sometime educator (on the user end) and also as a living history interpreter (as subject to other's photography). I danced around the whole thing when I decided to publish 'Exploring the Viking Age in Denmark', which is a collection of my own photographs (with commentaries).

Over the last day, two extensive collections of museum photographs published to the web have been highlighted through various discussion groups I participate in:
Is from an un-named living history interpreter who volunteers at the "Archeon", Bronze Age 'living history park' in Alphen a/d Rijn, the Netherlands. (Introduction in English)
Is from 'Víkverir', which as far as I can see from their web site (in Norwegian?) is a small Norway based living history group centred on the Viking Age. (nice web site!)

Both of these collections are extensive, grouped by individual museums. The images are presented without labels or commentary, so there are not specific identifications possible. (Sometimes an image does include the museum's lable.) In some cases the images represent separate visits to specific museums. Most of the images are taken hand held with available light, so often they are not crisp, and colours are obviously off.

Without identifications, the artifact images are less useful than they might be. Still, it would be likely possible for anyone seriously trying to identify a specific object to contact the institution directly for more information (including the photograph as reference).

As Neil Peterson had suggested in the original conversation that sparked that 2008 commentary - this 'horse has left the barn'.
The explosion of low cost and high quality digital photography could hardly be imagined a decade ago. The sift of the internet to ever easier publication methods was suspected. The implications of the geometric progression in potential storage volumes was certainly understood.

Ya can't sell this stuff - when people are giving it away for free!


Neil said...

There is a very old problem, the world changes which impacts existing business models. I can still hear the coal-oil lobbyists campaigning for protection against these new-fangled electric lightbulbs.

Copyright is often abused (successfully dagnabbit) by businesses who don't want to accept the changing world.

Old museum model - charge for ANY photo and don't let people take photos. New suggestion - offer for sale nice scaled photos with a copy of your accompanying docs. Charge extra for publication rights (including web). Everyone wins.

Anonymous said...

I would think that the number of people that go to a place just to see a museum is not a very large percentage of many museum's visitors. Isn't it usually people who live by or are visiting for some other reason? The only places I can think of that aren't like that are in Paris and maybe Egypt; but many people go to Egypt for the large monuments.

That second site seems to be offline now.

Anonymous said...

I should have emphasized that I believe the many of the people that live near by the museum and visit would still visit even if there were decent photos of many of the objects in the museum on the internet, if the things in the museum were thought to be interesting enough.


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