Into the Archive: Online Exhibition of the BMBF-Project "Photo-Objects"

25.11.2016
Museum für Fotografie

From 14 November 2016 the Online Exhibition "Into the Archive: On the Materiality of Photographs" of the cooperative project "Photo-Objects. Photographs as (Research-) Objects in Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History" funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung/BMBF) is showcasing 96 photographs from the holdings of the Antikensammlung and the Kunstbibliothek of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at the Humboldt-University in Berlin, and the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut.

Photographs are not only reproductions of whatever is represented in them, but also three-dimensional material objects, which are handled, used and subject to processes of wear and tear. From a single model various photo-objects can be created, including not only negatives, contact sheets and photoprints, but also drawings and prints in books. Equally heterogeneous are the circumstances in which they are conserved and the networks in which they move. Photographs, whether analog or digital, circulate in archives, museums, research institutes, universities and private collections. They traverse social, political, cultural and historical contexts and are consequently received and used in very different ways.

This is the point of view chosen for the current Online Exhibition. It presents in six sections (“Multiple Originals”, “Work on Photo-Objects”, “Circulation”, “People in Pictures”, “Types and Typologies”, “On the Margins of the Archive”) four photo-archives and their collections:

  • the archive of the Antikensammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz with a photographic documentation of the archaeological campaigns in Magnesia on the Maeander and Pergamon;
  • the Sammlung Fotografie of the Kunstbibliothek of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz with two groups of architectural photographs dating to around 1900;
  • the Hahne-Niehoff photo-archive on folklore of the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at the Humboldt-University in Berlin;
  • and the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut with its applied arts section.

The Online Exhibition “Into the Archive: On the Materiality of Photographs” gives a current insight into the work of the cooperative project sponsored by the BMBF “Photo-Objects. Photographs as (Research-) Objects in Archaeology, Ethnology and Art History”, in which the four institutions represented in this exhibitions are working together. The project links methodological approaches to “material culture” with a comparative perspective: photo-objects are compared as threedimensional, material artefacts, while at the same time the focus is placed on their scientific use in the disciplines of archaeology, ethnology and art history. Not least the aim of the project is to deconstruct the claimed neutrality of documentary photographs and photo-archives.