Remembrance and (Re)membering: contrasting perspectives on the Sunbeam Photographic Collection

Shepherdson, K. (2014) Remembrance and (Re)membering: contrasting perspectives on the Sunbeam Photographic Collection. In: Archives 2:0 - Saving the Past / Anticipating the Future, November 25th - 26th 2014, National Media Museum, Bradford, UK.

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Aleida Assman stated that ‘the archive…can be described as a space that is located on the border between forgetting and remembering’ (2008:103). Both are selective processes that forge meaningful terrains and bring order to isolated artefacts. ‘(Re)membering’ is a slightly ironic concept that attempts to encapsulate the archival processes of collection and collation, synthesising disparate parts into a meaningful whole. The Sunbeam Photographic Collection is an example of this - consisting of more than 40,000 commercially taken British seaside photographs from 1917–1976. Their origins are private individuals and uncollated municipal holdings and it is the role of SEAS Photography to construct an ordered collec- tion from such disordered parts.

The archivist’s meaningful terrain represents a perspective which can be at odds with users and contributors. ‘Rememb- rance’ refers, in this context, to the emotional meaning that such ‘holiday snap’ images have for the non-archivist, interpreted through the lens of selected memory. For the archivist, such nostalgia gives way to synthesis and academic analysis, in which technical, historical and cultural contexts predominate. Thus, far from a neutral interpretational land- scape, this Collection can be regarded as a locus of contrast- ing and perhaps conflicting perspectives. For some contributors, key Sunbeam' images represent a canon, with overt sanctification. Accordingly, the archivist can be seen as hijacking the demotic, taking the ‘people’s pictures’ and over- intellectualising them. A central problem to be discussed is, therefore, how this nexus of conflicting perspectives is navigated/negotiated, without alienating the very people whose contributions are so vital to the archive’s formation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CD Diplomatics. Archives. Seals > CD0921 Archives
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts > N0400 Art museums, galleries, etc.
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Media Art and Design
Depositing User: Dr Karen Shepherdson
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2015 17:32
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2015 17:32

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00