Collecting the Ephemeral Social Media Photograph for the Future – Why Museums and Archives Need to Embrace New Work Practices for Photography Collections

Kajsa Hartig, Västernorrlands museum, Sweden, Bente Jensen, Aalborg City Archives, Denmark, Anni Wallenius, The Finnish Museum of Photography, Finland, Elisabeth Boogh, Stockholm County Museum, Sweden

Published paper: Collecting the ephemeral social media photograph for the future: Why museums and archives need to embrace new work practices for photography collections

Vernacular networked digital photographs shared through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have now, by far, replaced analog photographs and traditional photo albums. For museums and archives, the change of media implies that receiving physical vernacular photographic objects will soon be a thing of the past. The social media photograph is ephemeral and needs to be collected through an active effort, not long after the creation of the photograph. It is an assemblage of image, text, metadata, and affected by the digital network in which it is shared. This paper will discuss current findings and reflections of the ongoing research project titled “Collecting Social Photo” which is a cooperation between a number of museums, archives, and universities in the Nordic countries. Findings will be illustrated through case studies reflecting social photography from a personal perspective (Social Media Diaries), the production of the image of places (the city of Södertälje, Sweden and Aalborg, Denmark), and as the reaction to sudden events such as the Stockholm terrorist attack in 2017. As the visual representation of the social digital photograph is not sufficient to understand the challenges of the memory institutions when collecting and disseminating contemporary photographic heritage, the project includes studies of metadata and the material practices in which the photograph is produced. This paper will share insight into the complexity of the social digital photograph, which has been studied by (among others) Nancy Van House (2016), Edgar Gómez Cruz, and Asko Lehmuskallio (2016), and regard it from the perspective of memory institutions through the experience of case studies with a focus on audience engagement, work practices, and digital infrastructures for collecting social digital photography.


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