Gil Pasternak delivers an online workshop on community photo archives and digital heritage

On 4 December 2020, Gil Pasternak organized and hosted online an event that explored uses of digital heritage in terms of community engagement with the establishment and maintenance of digital photo databases, focusing on the question of what kinds of photographs gain the status of cultural heritage in the digital age and on what ground. Delivered as part of Pasternak’s 2020-2021 appointment as Visiting Professor at Vehbi Koç Ankara Studies Research Center at Koç University in Turkey, the event was titled Photographic Heritage and “The Craze” for Community Photo Archives, primarily designed as such as a knowledge transfer workshop for doctoral and postgraduate students, early career researchers and professional practitioners. While steering discussions about the social and cultural value of photographs, the workshop considered more closely the cultural and academic status of photographs created by non-professional, amateur and opportunistic snapshot photographers. The main portion of the event gave the floor to the directors of two UK-based photographic community heritage initiatives who have made it their mission to safeguard the private photographs of distinct communities in the country. One initiative is The Living Memory Project which has recorded and celebrated everyday life stories connected to family photo albums. The other is the Apna Heritage Archive which has gathered, documented and displayed personal family photos collected form UK-based Punjabi migrant communities. The event coupled with the two presentations and the discussions it generated enabled participants to consider who has the right, in practical terms, to define some photographs as valuable cultural objects and others as unimportant. The event helped develop a critical understanding of photographic collections and archives while equipping participants with the ability to consider the contributions that non-institutional digitised photo collections can make to advance visual histories – and historical studies more broadly. Participants came from across all campuses of Koç University in Istanbul and Ankara and represented multiple academic and professional fields and disciplines, including archaeology, history of art, sociology, and design technology.

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