In Focus

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A collection of ethereal musings from the past ten centuries; these illuminations, prints, paintings, and photographs, curated by Stephen Ellcock, never fail to enchant.



Follow CollectSocialPhoto, a Nordic collaborative project developing methods for collecting social digital photography in museums and archives. Their website includes updates, resources, and information on related conferences and workshops throughout the world.

Online Opportunities

In case you missed it

Put on a kettle and listen to sessions delivered at 2017’s “Photo Archives IV: The Place of Photography,” an international conference whose focus was investigating photographs and photographic archives in relation to notions of place. 

Let’s get lost! 

Prepare to lose your day in this charming collection of early Japanese animation from the National Film Center, Tokyo. [Site is in English]

You (didn’t) have to be there

Street photography enthusiasts, rejoice! Closed for the pandemic, the 2020 Italian Street Photo Festival has taken its program online

On display

The works of Charles “Teenie” Harris, legendary chronicler of Pittsburgh’s African American community and photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, now have a dedicated gallery at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition features iconic examples of Harris’s photographs and will be the focus of a number of educational programs and community events inspired by this world-renowned collection.

Get Involved

Time wasters

You are probably stuck inside anyway, so why not participate in the Getty Challenge?

**This one has been going on for a while–it might be stale now, but is still hilarious.

Lend a hand

Looking for useful ways to pass time during your next Zoom meeting? Spend a few moments tagging historic structures, details, and byways in NARA’s Citizen Archivist crowdsourcing project for the Bureau of Public Roads, 1896-1963 Records.

Group efforts

View crowdsourced images documenting scenes of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic or submit your own to the Isolation Museum.


Learn something

Travel plans scrapped? Don’t despair–there are still are plenty of opportunities for distance learning. Check out the (occasionally free) offerings from SAA, NEDCC, and AMIA.

Polaroids from Heaven: Developing an Active Learning Session with Unconventional Visual Resources

Examples of student work from the “Alterations” assignment in the course, Alternative Photography.

A photograph of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing on a rose petal, a Polaroid of unexplained religious symbols in the clouds, and an image of a mysterious flash of light that eerily resembles the name of a Portuguese child visionary from 1917… How can archivists use controversial or unconventional photographs like these to support student learning? This post provides a lesson plan for an active learning session with archival visual resources that was part of the Alternative Photography course at the University of Dayton.  

As the liaison to the Department of Art & Design, I have many wonderful opportunities to collaborate with faculty in fine art, art history, and art education. I was particularly excited when I was put in touch with a faculty member teaching the course Alternative Photography, which focuses on non-traditional photographic processes and emphasizes experimentation with the photograph as a physical, social, and intellectual phenomenon. The content of this course was a perfect opportunity to use a fascinating archival collection of photographs and accompanying documents related to Marian apparitions–reported supernatural appearances by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The teaching faculty member and I developed a special collections instruction session that served as the foundation for an assignment called Alterations: Negative, Print, Space. The goal of the assignment was to introduce students to manipulation of the photographic negative, print, and viewing space. For this assignment, students were involved in all aspects of the photographic process including concept development, exposure of the film, formal manipulation of the negative/print, the making of the final print, and final display. The special collections instruction session provided context, historical background, and critical perspectives for the image-making portion of this assignment.

Prior to the session, students read the article, “Polaroids from Heaven: Photography, Folk Religion, and the Miraculous Image Tradition at a Marian Apparition Site” by Daniel Wojcik. During the session, students engaged in three separate but related activities: speed-dating with archival visual resources, pair and share, and affinity mapping. This culminated in a final discussion on the collection themes as they related to the assignment.

Students at work during the “speed-dating” activity with the Marian Apparitions collection.

Lesson Plan Outline

Speed-dating activity: Students analyzed an item from the archival collection and answered the questions: What is the item? When, where, and/or by whom was it created? What are some keywords that describe this item? What questions does this item raise for you?

Pair and share: Students shared their findings, initial reactions, and questions with a partner and discussed the prompts: Where do you see the photographer’s hand in these images? How might you think about this collection in the context of photographic alterations?

Affinity mapping: Students identified keywords from the speed-dating activity, wrote them on post-its, and mapped them into themed categories on a whiteboard. This became a launching point for further discussion on collection themes.

Outcomes and Reflection

Over the next two course meetings, students created images and then critiqued them. As a librarian teaching mostly one-shot sessions, the critique was the perfect opportunity to engage with students after the archives session and learn more about the outcomes and any potential impact of their experience with the collection. During the critique, students identified both direct and indirect impacts of engaging with the archival collection as a foundation for creating their own images. For example, one student identified the “spiritual experience” she had while creating images and another student mentioned that her images were directly inspired by the idea of creating an apparitional experience for the viewer. Other student work aesthetically referenced the archival collection. 

Through active learning, the collection facilitated encounters with analog photographic processes, analysis of the various dimensions of religious imagery, critical perspectives on photographic manipulation (both of the image and of the viewer), and discussion on the history and contexts of apparition photography.

Jillian Ewalt
Librarian for Visual Resources/Associate Professor
Marian Library, University of Dayton



Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings + Landscapes

Oct. 19, 2019–Feb. 2, 2020 / October 17-December 21, 2019

Need a reason for a road trip? Head down to Atlanta, where two exhibitions featuring the photography of Sally Mann are on display this Fall. Through February 2, 2020, the High Museum of Art is hosting Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, which explores how her relationship with the land has shaped her work and how the legacy of the South—as both homeland and graveyard, refuge and battleground—continues to inform American identity. Through December 21, 2019, Jackson Fine Art is host to Remembered Light, an intimate, personal series documenting a creative fellowship between herself and the artist Cy Twombly, as well as images of the tactile traces remaining after his passing in 2011. The results are a luminous rumination on what a life leaves behind.


 Nature Self-Portrait #2, 1996, Laura Aguilar. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 19 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council, 2019.19.2. © Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016

Laura Aguilar Photographs

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The largest museum acquisition of Laura Aguilar’s photography, a cache of 35 photos produced during her three-decade career, was recently obtained by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The photographs–often featuring Aguilar, who died last year–explore her Latinix, working-class, and queer identity, providing insight into the creative vision of an artist gone too soon. A selection of the prints will go on view in Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs (December 17, 2019–March 8, 2020 at the Getty Center).


Hilversum, Netherlands Symposium

“Archives, assumed to be containers of memory, are vested with a particular power to constitute and define who is and who is not included in (his)stories. We explore what “decolonizing” the archive – within and beyond the walls of established institutions – could offer for the production of new bodies of knowledge.”

Organized by the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies & the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision , Inward Outward will investigate the status of moving image and sound archives worldwide as they intertwine with questions of coloniality, identity and race. Registration for the symposium opens at the end of October and is free of charge.

Online Symposium

Did you miss SFMoMA’s symposium “The Artist Initiative Symposium on Photography: Reprinting Color Photographs as a Preservation Strategy”? Never fear, video and transcripts are now available! The symposium includes discussions from photographers, conservators, and curators on the issues and challenges concerning the reprinting of color photographs, a history of reprinting photographs at MoMA, as well as philosophical and ethical framework for projects.

Good to Know

Get some standards! New to Audiovisual processing or just curious on how other institutions handle these complex collections? Check out the newly revised Guidelines for Processing Collections with Audiovisual Material from the Archives of American Art. 

Get Social


Explore the unexpected beauty of found imagery with Lost and Found Archive, a collection of scanned 35mm slides found at boot fairs, jumble sales, garage sales, junk shops and markets. Curated by U.K. artist Neil Brown.


Lose yourself in this continuous delight of graphic materials selected by the staff of University of Wisconsin-Madison.