University Photography

While working with the University of Photography record group, I faced a multitude of challenges. The record group is extensive and contains a vast amount of photographs that have not been kept in a specific order throughout the years and some of the sections are not even labeled other than ‘Section 1,’ Section 2,’ 3, 4, etc. The record group contains over 70 ledgers of contact sheets, over 80 boxes and 260 metal drawers of negatives, and over 100 binders and folders of slides. So you can imagine the amount of information I had to comb through to compile a more informative finding aid for researchers. Also, finding any administrative history has been the biggest challenge of all, because the archives have little to no information pertaining to the University of Photography.

While combing through the ledgers to give researchers more information on what the sections were about, other than the order number, I found this the easiest of them all. Fortunately, inside the ledger books were slips of paper that named the sections. The ledgers also kept the order (for the most part), through the years, changing the order only once, and then keeping the new order for the rest of the years.

The negatives were my next stop, and although not the most challenging, it was time consuming, because the negatives range from the early 1950s until the mid-2000s. Until the mid to late 70s, they changed order and section name almost yearly, and did not always have a name printed with the section number, (Keep in mind, the negatives had over 340 containers of material). After the mid to late 70s, the negatives follow the same order as the contact sheets, which I was extremely thankful for.

The slides were my final challenge of combing through the material, and the most challenging. The slides in the binders were not kept in any kind of order; they had no rhyme or reason, except that they were part of the collection. The color proofs and negatives of this section always had a sheet with how the contents were organized, although until 1992/1993 Section A and 1993/1994 Section A, the contents of the Color Slides held no organization note or even what kind of contents those sections held.

My biggest challenge, which I am still searching for answers for, is the administrative history of the Department of Photography. The University Special Collections and Archives seem to have no history of the Photography department, other than a few names of the two previous university photographers, Dick (James) Garvey and David Stormont. Those two are not even in the faculty files, which make it even harder to know if the University of Photography was under a different name and/or department before it became the University of Photography, because in the campus directories, photographic services were not a department with its own number before 1966. Which makes one ponder, ‘Where were the items from before 1966 come from, if not the University of Photography?’ Hopefully I will find an answer for you, the archives, and myself.

Until then, the University of Photography holds a great amount of information and researchers now will have a better time understanding the contents of the record group since I have given the finding aid more information of the contents. Explore away!

Blog posted by Kyra Caldwell on August 9, 2016.

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