Seeing History in Photographs

by Laurie Hannah

L. to r. Sidney Ascher, Johnny Fung, and Jordyn Napier during a cataloging session. Photo by Laurie Hannah.

Four UCSB students took part in a spring quarter project to catalog the historic photographs in the Presidio Research Center. Seniors Johnny Fung, and Jordyn Napier were part of Dr. Randy Bergstrom’s public history class and chose this project as part of their coursework. Senior Sidney Ascher and Junior Julia Madden-Fulk also participated in this year’s Docent Training Program at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP). They were introduced to the Research Center collections during the training and wanted to get more experience in an archives setting. Sidney will continue her interest in collections at George Washington University’s graduate program in Museum Studies this fall. Jordyn will be working at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History this summer.

Librarian and Archivist Laurie Hannah gave each student an in-depth crash course in cataloging photographs according to best practices. Students learned the rationale behind the complex cataloging record we use, which provides access to the organization’s collection of over 20,000 images through description and subject headings, but also documents provenance and rights. The students were also challenged with determining copyright status to see if an image was protected by copyright or now in the public domain, and they learned the implications of owning images versus reproducing images.

Each student was responsible for a binder of their choice ranging from images of Mission La Purísima to El Paseo. Response was positive from the students about the project.  Both Johnny and Sidney were able to apply new research skills and historical context to current history research projects they were working on, and Jordyn claimed this was her favorite internship at UCSB. In total, the students catalogued about 700 photos this quarter—a significant contribution to SBTHP.

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