Everyone has a drawer full of old photos. Each photo has its own importance. The photographer used precious film to take the photo and paid to have them developed. They were kept because they were an important store of memory. But the memory has disappeared into the past. We gaze at the photos today, reluctant to dispose of them yet for us many of these images are meaningless. The person who first stored the photographs often failed to record identifying details with them.
Our cultural institutions also have these drawers of photos – hundreds and thousands of them like the one above. They were regarded as an important record of a society in the past, but today many of these images are mysteries. No museum, library or archive could dream of discarding these photos, but without knowing the context of these photos they are reduced to meaningless bits of paper.
This is where the citizen curator steps in. Working through social media on the internet, citizen curators apply their knowledge, diligence, enthusiasm and generosity to help cultural organisations identify people, locations and the overall context of photos in their collections. We heard about this exciting work at a History Week event, ‘From Glass-plate to Cyber-space’ hosted by the Australian National Maritime Museum. Continue reading