Issues in the management of photographic collections :

Today‚ photographic images account for a large portion of the world’s memory and are found in diverse contexts. Whether autonomous objects or documents, photographic images can be of immense value. However archives, museums, libraries and other institutions around the world are struggling to conserve image collections in both analogue and digital formats. Despite multiple tools, best practices, CEN regulations, … the implementation of a strategy for efficient management of photographic collections is a complex task for collection managers and archivists. This conference would like to present some practical case studies of the management and conservation of photographic collections that have successfully applied theoretical ideals to good practice on the ground.

Next to the practical questions of storage, inventory, digitization, etc., the field is also faced with other less obvious problems. As digitization and worldwide access become key elements in collection management, copyright issues are often a stumbling block for museums and archives. Moreover, underlying politics can either be detrimental to or a positive influence on the care of photographic collections.

The management of photographic collections is therefore highly dependent on the context and the status of the photographic image. As a result similar images are subject to different conservation methodologies depending on whether they are found in archival or museum contexts. Moreover, photographic collections are frequently considered as miscellaneous and marginal to the activities of museums, archives and other cultural institutions. Although most images have been created for documental purposes, a lot of these documents are now being preserved for their intrinsic value. Over time, photographs have become more than just carriers of image content; they are now considered as cultural objects and present a significant potential for the general historic consciousness. A reflection on the status and management of photographic collections in various contexts is thus vital for the preservation of these images. Furthermore, there should be an awareness of the importance of conserving photographic images of our past as well as maintaining a tangible record of the present.

This conference therefore also aims to critically investigate the relationship between collection management and the status of the photographic object within the institution, whether it be a museum or an archival repository. The overall aim is to bring together professionals dealing with photographic images from different standpoints in order to develop a practical and philosophical framework for the management of photographic collections in different contexts.

Main colloquium topics

  • Collections care and management
    • (Preventive) conservation
    • Storage for photographic collections
  • Access
    • Digitization
    • Exhibition
  • The status of the image
  • Advocacy


The principal language of the conference will be English, but papers in French are also welcome.


The conference venue is located in the KIK/IRPA building: Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), Parc du Cinquantenaire 1, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Scientific committee members

Hilke Arijs (Audiovisual Preservation specialist, KIK-IRPA), Agnes W. Brokerhof (Senior scientist, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands), Christina Ceulemans (General Director a.i., KIK-IRPA), Marjolijn Debulpaep (head of the Preventive Conservation Section, KIK-IRPA), Prof. Dr. Hubert Locher (Direktor Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte - Bildarchiv Foto Marburg, Philipps-Universität Marburg), Martin Jürgens (Conservator of Photographic Materials, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam), Juozas Markauskas (vice-president, Baltic Audiovisual Archival Council), Prof. dr. Johan Swinnen (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Aparna Tandon (Project Specialist and Coordinator SOIMA-Sound and Image Collections Conservation programme, ICCROM), Drs. Martijn van den Broek (Head of Collections, Nederlands Fotomuseum).

Organizing Committee

Hilke Arijs (KIK-IRPA), Catherine Bourguignon (KIK-IRPA), Marjolijn Debulpaep (KIK-IRPA), Anne-Françoise Gerards (KIK-IRPA), Simon Laevers (KIK-IRPA), Hans Opstaele (KIK-IRPA), Edwin De Roock (KIK-IRPA)

Selected papers

Session 1: Managing Collections

Chair: to be announced

Keynote lecture by Johan Swinnen

Erik P. Löffler: Originals, Reproductions, Original Reproductions: Redefining Categories in a Documentary Collection

Lieneke Nijkamp: The struggle between practical use and utmost preservation (to be confirmed)

Keynote: Hilke Arijs: Images of value: researching value assessment methods for image collections (working title)

Mike Evans: Recording the new: Bedford Lemere & Co, 1870-1930

Luce Lebart: Regard sur l’histoire de la conservation et de l’archivage des photographies

Session 2: Care and conservation

Chair: Martin Jürgens

Keynote: Herman Maes: Show me your shoes, I’ll tell you what you collect. Developing new approaches in the management of (photographic) collections

Ann Deckers & Tamara Berghmans: Investigating low energy climates for the preservation of photographic collections (to be confirmed)

Marsha Sirven: Combining scenography and preservation: photograph exhibitions at the City of Paris

Joana Silva et al.: Conservation of cellulose acetate photographic negatives: searching for new approaches

Session 3: Digitization for preservation and access

Chair: to be announced

Keynote: Juozas Markauskas: Sustainable re-use of digitized archival content

Monika Supruniuk: Conservation and digitalization of nitrate films collection at the National Film Archive in Poland

Bruno Van Den Bossche: From dust to display: Bring your collections to life (to be confirmed)

Vahur Puik: Gamified geotagging for historic photographs

Closing lecture by Aparna Tandon

Poster session

Céline Quairiaux: Reflection on the marking of photography on glass, RC paper and paper: principle, test and method (to be confirmed)

Hans Opstaele: Migration of hot and cold data: Comparison of the Millenniata Archival DVD, Dell’s Compellent Storage and linear optical tape

W. Noshy et al.: The characterization and conservation treatment of an important photograph album using advanced imaging techniques and novel reintegration methods (to be confirmed)

Petra Trnková: The photographic collection managed by a research institute

A small exhibition showing a selection of KIK-IRPA’s extensive photographic collection will be held simultaneously with the conference.

The conference will be followed by a reception at KIK-IRPA.