Four Questions: Preserved Documents Become Our History

The University Libraries is hosting Community Digitization Day to help community members preserve their personal printed documents.
Feb. 27, 2017
Extra Info: 

UA librarians are offering to make digital copies of personal photographs during Community Digitization Day. Participants will be provided with a digital copy of their personal photographs With the owner's permission, the digital images will be added to a public online archive. To register in advance, call 520-626-8332. However, registration is not required to attend.

Community Digitization Day
Saturday, March 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
UA Special Collections, Main Library, 1510 E. University Blvd.

The preservation of documents, including photographs, that are digitally born is important to the preservation of social, community, cultural and other records. Adequate preservation of such materials also is shaped by concerns regarding ethics and integrity.

In order to provide metro Tucson residents with an opportunity to have personal and family documents professionally digitized and shared with the public record, the University of Arizona Libraries is hosting a Community Digitization Day on March 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Special Collections.

Community members are invited to bring printed materials — letters, photographs, certificates, brochures from organizations, church programs and the like — related to Tucson and the surrounding borderlands areas from 1900 to 1970.

Each person can bring up to 10 items, with a maximum size of 14 by 16 inches. During the event, librarians will scan these materials and provide each person with digitized materials on a USB drive.

Steve Hussman, the Katheryne B. Willock Director of Special Collections, will speak during the event about the responsibility that archives have in caring for the historical record.

Also, Jennifer Jae Gutierrez, the Arthur J. Bell Senior Photograph Conservator at the UA Center for Creative Photography, will offer workshops throughout the day on how to preserve photographs.

"I would encourage community members to focus on photographs that they know to be unique, and that capture moments, events and people that will not be represented in other community members' collections," said Jennifer Jae Gutierrez, the Arthur J. Bell Senior Photograph Conservator at the UA Center for Creative Photography. 

Throughout the event, Gutierrez will provide formal presentations on the ways people can appropriately care for family and personal photograph collections. She also will give advice on ways to be an informed consumer when purchasing archival materials for storing personal collections and provide recommendations for best storage spaces at home.

Leading up to Community Digitization Day, Gutierrez answered some of our questions.

Q: Why did you choose a career as a conservator?

A: I wanted a career that would be both challenging and rewarding, and allow me to work directly with art. I was fortunate to discover the field of art conservation at the beginning of my undergraduate studies and recognize that it was a field that would fulfill all those criteria. When it came time to choose what conservation discipline I would focus on — paintings, sculpture, works of art on paper, furniture, textiles, etc. — I chose photograph conservation. Photographs are powerful objects that everyone can relate to. Personally, I can be equally moved by a stunning fine-art image, as I might be by an image of a stranger's birthday party, or an image documenting social injustices.

Q: Given the revolution we have seen in our digital lives, especially regarding how often visual elements are being created, why is image preservation all the more compelling?

A: More images are created on a daily basis than ever before, and the challenges associated with preserving born digital images are dramatically different from their analog predecessors. In addition to new challenges, there are new opportunities in the digital era that allow images to be made accessible to broad audiences immediately after they've been made.

Q: What ethical considerations should people consider when considering sharing private documents?

A: Participants should be careful to contribute images to the online database that they know they have proper ownership and permission to share.

Q: Some may not see the importance of preserving and sharing their photos more broadly. Why, then, is it important to understand that images are a form of data and/or records?

A: Globally, historic and contemporary photographs document our achievements, challenges, creative expression, history and ways of life. It's impossible to predict all the ways in which these images will help future generations better understand, interpret and appreciate history, as well as the present and future. By preserving our photographic heritage, and finding ways to share and make it accessible, we ensure the greatest potential of use, appreciation and enjoyment.