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Subject: Results of questionnaire on photodocumentation

Results of questionnaire on photodocumentation

From: Samantha Alderson <salderson>
Date: Thursday, June 21, 2007
I received 25 responses to my questions regarding photodocumentation
practices posted on the list last week (see Conservation DistList
Instance: 21:10 Tuesday, June 12, 2007).  As a reminder I was
interested in finding out if people were still using B/W film in
addition to digital images.  Below is a summary of the results.

Of the 25 respondents 15 were from the US and 10 were international.
About half were museums or regional labs and the other half were
mostly libraries or archives with a few private studios.

The majority of the respondents (20) said they were no longer taking
B/W. Generally they had stopped in the last 1- 5 years.  People
cited a variety of reasons for stopping B/W including time, cost,
increasing difficulty in finding proper processing, and lack of
utility (like us they were taking them but not routinely printing or
using them).

Only 5 said they were still taking B/W, and in the case of one they
were the only person at their institution still doing so, and
another was only taking large format B/W.  Several of the 5 said
they were seriously considering abandoning B/W in the near future.
Reasons given for continuing B/W included concern for the permanence
of the digital media, and lack of capacity to properly manage the
digital files.

16 of the respondents were taking and keeping uncompressed master
files (TIFF or RAW) for at least most of their images, 9 were only
taking compressed files (JPEG).  Most reported having some sort of
system for backing up files on a server, external hard drive and or
CD/DVDs.  Many complained of the difficulty in managing and naming
the files properly.

Many pointed me to two good sources of information on digital

The Electronic Media Group of AIC which is planning on publishing
standards later this year has a lot of useful information on their
website <URL:>.  In addition,
Winterthur has recently published a useful pamphlet entitle
"Documentation Images captured with a Digital Camera" by Adam Novak.

At our institution we have been fortunate that our own move to
digital was preceded by a long term project to database and image
the entire Anthropology collection.  As a result, we have the
resource of several staff members with expertise and experience to
support our effort to make our process as archival, efficient, and
manageable as possible.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond.  The
answers have helped us make the decision to stop taking B/W, and
made us a little more comfortable in doing so.  We believe this is
the right decision for us given that our digital practice adheres to
the recommended practice of experts in the field, and we can no
longer justify the time and expense of taking the B/W that we never
use.  I would be happy to hear any further opinions on this topic
either on list or off, and I am happy to answer any questions anyone
might have regarding our decision and current digital practices.

Samantha Alderson
Objects Conservator
Division of Anthropology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:13
                   Distributed: Friday, June 29, 2007
                       Message Id: cdl-21-13-004
Received on Thursday, 21 June, 2007

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