Look Back, See Further: Analyzing Photos from the Library’s Collections

Look Back, See Further: Analyzing Photos from the Library’s Collections


>>It is my pleasure now to introduce
Cate-Cooney, who joins us from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where
she is the coordinator of the TPS. That’s the Teaching with
Primary Sources Program. Trained as both librarian and art
historian, Cate is comfortable with the digital and physical realms. She began her career by creating the digital
library for decorative arts and material culture and later worked as an art
historian at Princeton University. More recently Cate was headed of the printed
book and periodical collection at Winterthur, where she taught connoisseurship of the
book using rare books as primary sources. It is my sincere pleasure to welcome Cate.>>Thank you so much, Cheryl, I
appreciate that kind introduction. And I’m excited to be here this
evening talking to you all. So, I’m here today to talk about analyzing
primary sources using Library of Congress tools. Specifically we’ll be considering
photography and we’ll follow a guide created by the University of the Arts called “Look Back. See Further.” Studying photographs and drawing
connections between primary sources, from the Library of Congress
and local collections. My objectives for today are, to
familiarize you with the University of the Arts online guide to photography. To aid an understanding of
photographs as primary source material, to get comfortable using Library of Congress
TPS, that’s Teaching with Primary Sources, analysis tool for photography, and
provide an introduction to Library of Congress photography resources
available online. So, I’m here to today to talk about “Look Back. See Further.” Studying photographs and drawing connections
between primary sources from the Library of Congress and local collections. This guide is available of the University
of the Arts’ website and a link to the URL at the presentation so you
can be sure to have it. The University of the Arts created this
guide to studying photographs meant for use in the classroom or as an
inspiration for teaching. The guide is intended to help users build visual
literacy skills using photography as the medium. Visual literacy can be defined as making
meaning of images through analysis and interpretation and using images effectively. As you likely know, visual literacy is a
component covered in many educational standards, including common core and other state standards. For instance, English language arts
standards asks students to, I’m quoting, “Integrate visual information with other
information in print and digital text,” and to, I’m going to quote again, “integrate and
evaluate content, presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and
quantitatively, as well as in words.” So, we’re going to focus on the first part
of our definition, making meaning of images through analysis and interpretation. The guide, “Look Back. See Further.,” can be used to help develop
the visual literacy skills of looking, describing and evaluating content. Using historical photographs in the
classroom is a great way to spark inquiry and built visual literacy skills. My goal today is to have us look at
photographs as sources in and of themselves, rather than as illustrative material. We’re not going to take an idea and then
find photographs to illustrate that idea. Instead, we’re going to look at photographs and
see what questions and ideas those images raise. So, here’s what I’m on the
hook for this evening. First I want to briefly give you the
context in which the guide was created. Then I will discuss analyzing
photographs using the TPS analysis tool. From there we will delve into looking at
three different types of images together. A portrait, a street scene
and a recreational image. Through analyzing these images
together we will see how looking at art and specifically photography can lead to
discussions and investigation of larger issues. Finally, I will do a brief
exploration of Library of Congress photograph collections
of interest to educators. So the University of the Arts joined the
Library of Congress’s TPS educational consortium with the goal of connecting,
teaching and learning to the arts by using the arts visual arts,
music, literature, theater, dance, architecture and on and on. Students can investigate how humans use
creative activity to express celebrate, explore and question their individual,
cultural and national identity in history. Their place in the universe. The arts provide a medium for exploring history,
science, language, mathematics, philosophy, you get the idea, it goes on and on. For the TPS program we developed week long
courses in which teachers would engage with various media as primary sources. And teachers find it engaging and exciting
to work with something that is both pervasive in our popular culture as photography
is, but also an artistic medium with a century and a half of history. From this course we made a printed
guide to studying photographs for use by teachers and students in the classroom. This guide is available online as
a PDF, via the U Arts TPS website, and it’s in the teacher resources section. So, again, we’ll link to it at the end, I just want you to be aware
that it is out there for you. We wanted the guide to act as a model for
what teachers might do in their classroom, including the idea of connecting the library’s
online resources to resources available to teachers in their local collections. The guide connects primary sources from the
Library of Congress collections to objects in the collection of the
Library Company of Philadelphia. Our thought was that the guide could be printed
out and used in the classroom, or used online. Teachers can work through the exercises
with students at a variety of grade levels or they can look at the guide on
their own and use it as a model for analyzing other images
that might be of interest. So, let’s jump right in to
looking at and analyzing images. I’m going to model the method with this image
and then talk about the TPS analysis tool. So, here’s where I’m going to
ask you to start participating. We’re going to take a look at this image and
we start by describing exactly what we see. So, take a good bit of time to look at
the image and describe what you see. You don’t have to try to be clever
or astute, you just have to look. There’s no training required for this, just
the time and the willingness to stick with it. So, I’m going to set a timer for 30 seconds
so we can just sit and look at this image. So, we just thinking about
what we see in the photograph. Just describe what you see. So, I see some people are looking
at it and wondering things about it. They see people and trees,
mountain, maybe homes. Some people are getting into the idea of
feelings, what they feel when they see it. Great. And people are starting to ask questions. What could it be? So, did anything jump out at you? What did you notice first? If you are having a hard time getting going,
you can start with a few questions like, “What objects, people or animals
do you see in the picture?” Somebody saw tiny people and flat
buildings with a question mark. I agree, flat buildings. And I like that some people are
noticing what they don’t see. They don’t see vehicles. So, you might find that your observations
naturally lead into reflections, such as wondering where this scene is. A few people have said, “Are these barracks?” Some people have wondered when it
was taken, is this an old photograph? What are the buildings and
what are the people doing? People are wondering, maybe you can wonder
where the photographer was positioned and who the photograph was meant for. So, what do you wonder about the photograph. Oh, Faith, I’m excited that you started
wondering about the composition. You noticed three different tiers. Wondering what the photograph was for, Adrian
was wondering what could it have been for. I love all these questions. When is it, where is it, is the
ground covered in dust or in snow? And why is there a lack of
structure to the right? What else do we not see in this image? And Amy wondered if it appears to
be an internment camp in the west, why the environmental shot, why was it taken? Isolated, but telephone poles. Observations such as icy buildings and
a desolate landscape with mountains in the background lead to concrete questions
such as, “Where was this picture taken?” Or they might lead to reflections. The observation>Cate, thank you so much. This is Cheryl Latterly [assumed spelling]
again, from the Library of Congress. And I want to say that the conversations were
rich and lively and you seemed very very engaged and I know I’m leaving with lots to think
about, so thank you for participating and thanks to Cate for facilitating
such a good conversation.

Dereck Turner

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