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Category Archives: 026 ~ Libraries for specific subjects

Book Review ~ The Promise: The Town That Never Forgets

The Promise: The Town That Never Forgets/Noublions jamais lAustralie by Derek Guille, illustrated by Kaff-eine, translated by Anne-Sophie Biguet, ISBN 9780987313959, One Day Hill. Hardback $24.99

The Promise

This non-fiction book depicts a century old relationship formed between a town in France, Villers-Bretonneux and Australia. The commitment to never forget the help provided by Australians, who saved them in World War I is expressed. Australia helped rebuild the town by providing some funds raised by school children in Victoria. Almost a century later, the people of Villers-Bretonneux returned help to Victorians after the bushfires that ravaged country towns. The article, ‘Bound by history, French children honour their debt’ in the Australian, provides information of the children from Villers-Bretonneux raising money to help rebuild the Strathewen primary school, and this is the event that forms part of the book.

Nelson Ferguson, a cornet player and artist, was a stretcher-bearer from Australia in Villers-Bretonneux, during World War I and suffered injuries. His grandson was inspired to travel on this journey and learn more about the town and the history. He invited musicians, from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) to form a brass band to play a private memorial at the Australian War Memorial, located just outside the village. Geoff Payne was amongst the musicians on this journey. Beyond the historical basis, of the connection between the two places, the book conveys a personal and emotional journey by Musicians from the MSO during a 2007 tour accompanied by the journalist and author of the book Derek Guille. It is the personal story of Geoff Payne that resonates with emotion in this journey. Whilst there, he discovers a photograph in the Memorial depicting his great uncles grave. The emotional impact of this discovery transfers to his ability to perform later that same day at the memorial.

I came to this book via a passion for the street art by the Artist Kaff-Eine. The artwork beautifully conveys the emotions depicted in the true story of the journey by musicians from the MSO in 2007 and it is the emotional connection that resonates. When Geoff Payne discovers a photograph a sense of feeling the shattering moment is captured in the artwork. The actual playing at the memorial heightens the emotional moment and affirms the enduring connection of the two countries. The artwork, by Kaff-Eine, is poignant in depicting the moments of emotion. The beautiful water-colour illustrations convey the story with a gentleness and contribute to the humanisation of this story about the harsh realities of tragedies and how they extend to affect people today.

This book was acquired for the school library and was placed on the display shelf as part of the lead up to ANZAC day. It is a bi-lingual book with the English story written on the top half of the page and the French translation written directly beneath. This contributes to relevance for Languages other than English (LOTE) programs in school, particularly if French is a subject studied. It is a great inclusion when exploring diversity and world connections with other cultures too.

Most non-fiction books, about history and war, in our collection depict prosaic iterations of history and its events. There aren’t many resources providing personalised perspectives, nor mapping a connection between Australia and another country over a significant period of time.

The Promise: The Town that Never Forgets, does not depict actual war experiences in detail, however moments are intertwined within the story of a modern day journey of musicians revisiting a town in France to play music at a private memorial. In the end it is a celebration of a connection formed during times of extreme situations. It’s a celebration of human bonding across borders and helps to make the world a somewhat smaller and friendlier place. It provides a faith in human capacity to provide support at times of greatest need.

Being able to review books, whilst working in a school library, contributes to greater knowledge of the library collection and assists in ability to provide recommendations to the school community about specific resources that are relevant to the curriculum. This book provides a fantastic avenue to explore the historical events mentioned by connecting with other available sources. Considering, History is now compulsory in the Australian Curriculum from Year 3 upwards, an evaluation of resources available in the library to support the curriculum is vital.

 

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Visiting Libraries….

A Web of interconnections

This past session, one of the subjects I completed included the study visits to various information agencies. Interestingly most people visiting the Melbourne organisations were from other States of Australia or regional areas and I was definitely amongst the minority from Melbourne on the visits.

The places visited include

I’m not going to venture into detail about each of the organisations but rather provide a focus on Melbourne Library Service.

In previous posts, I have mentioned some of their innovative programming such as the Gallery Space hosting exhibitions, the cafe poet, the public piano and various workshops including Zine making workshops. It’s incredibly exciting to learn about the community engagement offered by Melbourne Library Service and how it provides a glimpse to the changing nature of libraries as space and how they are utilised.

In line with the rise in the creative maker culture, Melbourne Library Service reflects this, not only in their programming of workshops but in their collection building too. For instance, the Zine creation workshops lead to Zines that become part of the library collection that a wider audience can borrow, just like books, ebooks, audio books and CD’s. In effect this is an example of  great community engagement by a public library facilitating publishing and sharing.

Another interesting transition, exemplified in their plans for the library that is being built at Docklands due to open in 2014, is the incorporation of multimedia production facilities, a performance space and a Green room (for special effects). With these facilities, enabling multimedia production, they are planning to employ two multimedia technicians to facilitate the process and enable community to create films, audio recordings and even have performances or screenings.

Clearly, exciting times are ahead for public libraries as they transition to being the Hub of the community. The public library provides meeting spaces, resources and enables creative engagement. It provides connections to artists and community and facilitates the sharing of a local voice to a global audience.

Funnily, the study visits were meant to clarify the kind of information agency I would like to end up in. Currently, I’m in a small school library and for a few months I was convinced it was audiovisual archives and preservation that I wanted to focus on. After the visits, I came away liking all of them and have now broadened my choices rather than narrowed… Maybe next year I’ll narrow it down and the sky will provide a clear and narrowed focus 🙂

 

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Tintype photography and preservation

This past week, as an activity for my studies, I investigated one photographic process and I chose the tintype process. I now need a medium format camera as I just want to dive in and start taking tintype photos!

The tintype was discovered by Adolphe Alexandre Martin, in France, 1853 and patented in the USA in 1856 by Hamilton Smith (Martin et.al. 2008). Use of the tintype spread quickly and has an interesting history. As a process, the tintype was predominantly in use from 1853 to1930 (Lavédrine, p. 38). The process delivered photography to a wider audience, was a precursor to what is now known as street photography and a precursor of the photobooth (Martin et.al. 2008). The faster process, than the daguerreotype, contributed to more candid images and experimentation, as no longer did a pose have to be held for such a long time (p. 2). In the USA, the tintype process is responsible for collections of photographs taken during the civil war. For the first time photography was faster, portable and tintypists travelled with their portable darkrooms, unlike the studio setting of the daguerreotype. Furthermore, having an iron support made the photographs less fragile and people were able to mail them to each other or keep them in books whilst away (Lavédrine et.al. p. 37).

A tintype is a positive monochrome image on metal (Lavédrine et.al. p.4). The other two positive image processes of the 19th century are the daguerreotype (on copper plates and encased) and the ambrotype (on a glass plate also encased) (Reilly, 2009 pp. 51-52). The tintype is also known as a ferrotype, melainotype or melanograph (Lavédrine p. 38). The metal support has a thickness of approximately 0.15mm (Lavédrine et.al. p 35) and the sizes of the tintype were commonly 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches (Martin et.al. 2008). However, it was possible to produce multiple images, the size of a stamp, on one sheet. This is where the idea of the photobooth is born. Unlike the daguerreotype and ambrotype, which were housed in cases with a glass cover, the tintype mostly wasn’t. However, some were and when cased it is difficult to tell the difference between a tintype and an ambrotype. Reilly (2009) suggests a magnet being the only way without needing to remove the case (p. 52).

Lavédrine et.al (2009) elaborates the construct of a tintype. It consists of a metal sheet of iron as the support. The sheet was lacquered, often with darkened shellac. The metal support is then coated with a binder consisting of collodian mixed with bromide and/or iodide. This is bathed in a silver nitrate sensitiser causing the collodian solvents to evaporate. This plate is placed in a frame and inserted directly into a camera where it is exposed. The exposure time of a tintype varied from 2 to 10 seconds (Martin et.al. 2008). The sheet is then developed in a solution of ferrus sulphate and nitric acid and fixed. Finally a varnish is usually applied to the image. (Lavédrine et.al p 36). The whole process was complete in 10 to 15 minutes. The tintype process of creating the image is similar to the wet-plate collodian process. However, the darkened tin layer produces the effect of a positive, with the image remaining laterally reversed (Lavérdine et.al. 2009 p. 34).

The Tintype process appears to have experienced a revival in recent years with a few people currently working with this process including Keliy Anderson-Staley, who exhibited a mixed media installation titled ‘imagined family heirlooms: an archive of inherited fictions’. This installation incorporated Tintype portraits and found objects. Robb Kendricks had Tintype portraits of a Cowboy series featured in a National Geographic issue in 2007 and published books with his works. Alice Blanch is an Australian photographer that works with alternative photographic processes including the tintype. Gold street Studios in Victoria, Australia provide workshops in alternative processes.

It is interesting to locate a commercial portrait studio called Photobooth, in The Mission area of San Francisco that is dedicated to creating portraits specifically with the tintype process. Michael Shindler, the owner of Photobooth, utilises a medium format camera to create and sell tintype portraits to people who walk in for this purpose. Shindler describes the process of his work and, like others currently working with the tintype process, there are modifications to the original process. For instance one modification relates to the support utilised, which is a plaque made for trophies, sized 4 inches by 5 inches. As it is already black on one side this eliminates the need to coat the metal sheet with dark shellac. Shindler applies collodian, also a modified mixture, directly to the plate and proceeds with the rest of the process. Shindler sells the portraits for sixty dollars. The following clip, by Tested, has Shindler discussing his tintype process.

In a museum or archive setting, the George Eastman House, as well as being a Museum of Photography housing collections, delivers courses in the tintype process. As the tintype process documented much of the Civil War period in the USA, collections have developed in other museums or archives including The Black Archives of Mid-America; housing a tintype collection specific to African-Americans in the Mid-West. In Australia, Picture Australia produces a result for tintypes housed in Australian libraries.

Because most tintypes were not provided with a protective glass there are some specific preservation issues that distinguish it from daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Initially, not having the glass encasement contributed to their robustness, which is why they were so portable (Lavédrine et.al. p 37). However, this portability has meant that they are often scratched or bent. Being metal they can easily rust in humid environments and this contributes to the image layer and lacquer to blister and even become detached from the support. The chemical components of tintype photographs are sensitive to light and can be damaged if displayed under strong light.

In light of this fragility of tintypes, Lavédrine et.al (2009) recommends keeping tintypes in storage envelopes and protected from light and humidity with a sheet of cardboard to prevent further changes or deformations (p.38).

Lavédrine, Bertrand & Gandolfo, Jean-Paul & McElhone, John P & Monod, Sibylle & Getty Conservation Institute (2009). Photographs of the past: process and preservation (English language ed). Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.

Martin, A.A., Smith, H. & Wallis, B. (2008) The Birth of the Snapshot, American History, 43(5); 48-53.

Reilly, J.M. (2009) Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints, Kodak publication, no. G-2S. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co.

 

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History of photography (The quick version)

I’ve been fascinated with photography since a very young child. My father was an avid photographer with a darkroom set up at home where he would develop photographs and experiment continuously. It’s no surprise that I developed the passion for photography and this later translated to teaching photography in a highschool a few years ago.

As the school had a darkroom set up, it enabled the opportunity for many students to benefit from the learning process. From making pinhole cameras, creating sunprints and moving through the history towards a final assessment of planning, shooting and developing photo essays to be exhibited at school, the students discovered their own passion for photography. I even found that once engaged in the analog/chemical process, students preferred it to digital photography.

However, the expense was always an issue at the school, and the darkroom was under constant negotiation to be turned into a computer lab. Digital photography was, and continues to be, much cheaper. I’m no longer teaching and today I wonder if the school, where I taught photography, is still teaching the subject…

leaving memory lane aside, I am now finding my passion for photography as relevant in my current studies. For the next couple of months I am studying Photographic Preservation via San Jose State University, as part of the WISE program offered by my home university. As a consequence, my posts for the next couple of months will most likely be centred on all things photography.

To kick start, this post will provide a brief history of photography. You can view a timeline of photographic processes from the Graphic Atlas of the Image Permanence Institute (highly recommended!).

Or for a shorter version the following two clips sum up the history of photography briefly and nicely…

 

 

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Audiovisual Archives

Visit the National Film and Sound Archive or for more information on collections Australian Screen or Australian Screen Online. Another resource of audiovisual archives can be accessed via ACMI.

BREAKING NEWS: National Archives Australia wins Unesco Preservation Award

National Archives of Australia to receive UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize

Click here for National Archives Australia.

 

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Cane Toads

Years ago, while studying film, I stumbled upon the incredibly funny documentary Cane Toads: an unnatural history by Mark Lewis.

Here is a clip from youtube from the film

For those who have not viewed the film, I highly recommend it!

This week I was delighted to discover that the same filmmaker has revisited the cane toad and completed a follow up. I have not seen it yet but I am definitely curious…

visit canetoads the conquest for more information. Sometimes documentaries provide a great insight into experimentation and creativity.

 

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Drafting a post

image accessed from http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=328

information overload

I currently have a couple of posts in draft stage and yet I have chosen to post this. Why? I question. this was not even in the planning process and yet here it appears before the other two posts that, I feel, will definitely be worth it. Well I am suffering from information overload hence the image. My reading for my learning has been somewhat obsessive; even though I am enjoying it enormously. I feel as if I have opened a box of chocolates and I just cannot stop until they are all eaten!

For my second assignment in my teacher librarianship subject I did something different and I now realise it has affected my information journey. What was different to my first assignment is that this time I borrowed a few books (physical books) from my university library and they needed to be mailed to me as I am studying via distance. I did not have the opportunity to look at the books, I did not have the opportunity to touch them or read the blurb; although I did read the abstract. I did not even have the opportunity to open the books and peruse the contents and flick through the pages. This experience is definitely different to prior library experiences. As a result, when the books arrived, three of my seven books were automatically evaluated as not particularly useful for my purpose. Fortunately, the others did offer relevance and I have spent the last weekend reading through these books and trying to absorb the relevance.

I am still in a process of determining how I feel about this process of borrowing via a distance library. Yes, it is nice to have a physical book to look through rather than PDF documents of chapters, journal articles that have been scanned or ebooks that I read with Adobe Digital editions. However, I am questioning whether the experience was better. When I do  not have the ability to be in the actual library to peruse the book and make assessments of importance to my purpose, sometimes the experience feels a bit hit and miss. I suppose four out of seven books is okay, but that is it, it is just okay. What about all the other books I didn’t see and was my search strategy effective in this circumstance?

I have felt success with my search strategies of databases and the accessing of academic journal articles or chapters from books in PDF format but this time I did not feel that sense of success. Something I definitely need to focus on and reflect on further!

 

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