IT and Collection Development

Acquiring traditional photographic collections required, in part, enough shelf space and preservation enclosures. Digital collections require storage space, to, only now it it server space for digital files, including backup. Smaller collections may resort to multiple hard drives for initial storage, but as collections grow, servers and backup systems come into play. How do we provision these systems? This will vary from institution to institution. If typical computer allocations are incurred on a yearly basis, for example, how do we handle an offer for a collection without sufficient IT and support.

File (re)naming

Many archives assign a numbering system to negative collections, especially when the negatives do not have a negative number assigned by a photographer. We often augment photographers numbering systems with our own, otherwise there will be several negatives numbered "1." The latter example may look like this: Jane Aperture's negative 1 becomes P123-000001, so as to distinguish it from Joe Shutter's negative 1, which we may number P099-000001. The "P" number, in this example, is the collection number assigned to the collection.
With digital photographs, a camera assigns unique file names to image files. To what extent do we want to use those numbers? Should we use collection number prefixes with camera generated numbers? Should we use a prefix, but renumber all images . . . perhaps in chronological order from EXIF data? What if a photographer renamed image files? More questions than these come to mind for further exploration.
Image file types


RAW formats are proprietary; JPEGs are damaged merely by opening and closing the image. Should archivists convert all image file types to a standard file type, and if so, which: DNG, TIFF, or JPEG2000 with lossless compression?


What is an original digital photograph? Is copying a file an exact copy and, if so, do we then have two originals? Is there a difference between the camera original and an exact copy? Do we need to reflect this when naming or renaming files? If the original file is a JPEG (as is the case with many photojournalism or sports photographs, for example) should that JPEG never be opened by the archivist because doing so, and then hitting "Save" (rather than "Close") re-compresses the image and therefore alters the image, making the file different from original? Compression artifacts do begin to appear at some point when JPEGs are opened and saved, opened and saved, etc. What differences do we need to know about the photographer's use of the file, for example, is it important to know if a photographer regularly opened and closed camera original JPEGs versus saving the camera original JPEG as a TIFF, JPEG, or DNG and working on a copy?


A traditional photographer's "workflow" has always had an impact on a how an archive handles the material from at least two perspectives: recording medium and processing. As a recording medium, nitrate, acetate and glass negatives are examples of workflow choices (or only choice available) made by a photographer that has bearing on how archivists store and preserve the original item. The manner in which film or prints, for example, have been processed—archival processing versus newspaper "splash-and-dash"—are two processing choices made by the photographer that has direct bearing on how an archives stores those items.
What is different with digital photography? An archive can make an exact digital copy that freezes the state of the image; any duplication of analog images has some loss in image quality. Amateur collections have been captured in photograph albums and scrapbooks, for example; now people post their work on social websites such as, which are usually digital images at their lowest quality. How will archivists collect digital photography? What effect does the DAM or DAM-like programs have on our collecting?

Imaging Programs (and the like)

NB. This may be a subset of workflow.
In an article on, "Poll: Which is better, Aperture or Lightroom?" ( that prompted readers to compare Adobe's Lightroom to Apple Computer's Aperture, the author noted: "Photographers would be best to think carefully about which software to purchase, and not just because of the necessary investments of time and money. Unlike applications such as Photoshop, which can easily be substituted or used in conjunction with other software, Lightroom and Aperture are equipped to extend their tentacles to manage your library of images."
To what extent do archivists need to know these programs? Will using a photographer's collection be contingent upon getting his/her imaging software because of the the software's tenacles--especially for the metadata?