One of the many challenges we face when photographing works from the collection is avoiding different kinds of unwanted reflections. Even small adjustments to our lights can result in everything from an overpowering glare to a flattening of any surface texture in the final image. Even trickier is dealing with works that are behind glass/plexiglass, which often reflect the environment back like a mirror.
Addressing this requires making sure that anything within the frame of the shot is cloaked in dark fabric, which won’t reflect enough light to interfere with the image. In addition to cloaking the equipment, we also must ensure that we personally are kept behind the fabric when operating the camera. At times it can look a little odd, but it goes a long way in improving the quality of the museum’s documentation of work.
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I write many essays and never give much thought to the creation of the primary sources I use. The databases, articles, and journals are all simply online. However, this internship has allowed me to participate directly in the creation of a digital collection comprised of primary source documents and photographs.
The digital collection will showcase archived documents from Asian students who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1917-1949. The work will help support PAFA’s initiative to highlight historically marginalized groups in the US. As a Chinese American, a history major, and someone interested in art, the chance to put a spotlight on these students is very important to me.
My work of scanning, formatting, and cataloging has allowed me to hold the delicate, aged papers these students once poured their hopes into. Each document describes their unique view of art and beauty, and their willingness to contribute to the field. The process of digitization ensures that this section of their life spent at PAFA will not fade nor remain hidden from the public. Instead, these newly digitized records will be preserved digitally and available freely online.
Like many general users, I didn’t realize all the necessary steps that were required to create digital collections. During my work in school, I never thought about how the digital records/collections came to be. Now, I was part of the creation process! I have the satisfaction of contributing a bit to the sea of online resources for users.
Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives & Collections
The archives is excited to introduce this years summer intern, Catherine Wan. Catherine is currently an undergraduate student pursuing a history degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For the summer internship project, she will help identify, digitize, catalog and research student academic files. Since Catherine has a strong interest in Asian history, the project will focus on students of Asian descent.
In typical PAFA fashion, Catherine jumped into the project and began working diligently. Digitizing and cataloging were the first part of the project.
The next phase of the project will be researching and analyzing the data to form new knowledge. This internship project contributes to the Archives’ hidden histories initiative by identifying and researching untold stories from underused areas of PAFA’s collections.