Photography Resources in a Digital Age

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Module Details

Module Code: HOPP 5010

Module Credits: 15 credits

Module Leader: Professor Stephen Brown

Module Duration: Twelve weeks

Meetings: Thursdays 10-12, 1-4pm in Portland 2.3

Assignment Due: December 5 and 12

Module assignment

Module Assignment Discussion Talk:Module_assignment

Module Contents page

Follow this link to the PRDA Contents page to get started on the module.



In a digital age, access to photography resources such as image collections, discussions, databases, galleries etc. is increasingly available via online sources, see for example this item in the New York Times. There many reasons for this, see for example Paul Goodman's Powerpoint presentation File:DMU Digitisation Session (November 2009).ppt.pptand the Digital Media Web site. In future, more resources will be available only in digital form. As a professional you will be expected to be able to find, navigate, interpret and use such resources and it is quite likely that you will be responsible for creating some of them for others to use, see for example this job advertisement. So it's going to be important for you to know how they are created and how digital publication is affecting the way scholars do research. That's what this module aims to achieve.

In it you are going to create a digital photographic history research archive, working from a primary resource that we will provide. To do this you will need to know how to select content, digitise it; how to catalogue it; how to build a database to hold your catalogue information; and how to design an effective user interface that makes it easy for your target users to find and refine information from the database. Along the way you will learn about object handling, digitising tools, file types and optimisation, resource discovery strategies, copyright and fair use, database design and metadata and prototype building and testing. To do all that you will also need to do some background research about methods, media and the content you are working with. When it comes to building the database you will need a laptop computer with a wireless connection. Don't worry if you aren't happy working with computers. (Warning this video includes language that some people may find offensive.) We will help you.

   Walker Evans: Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama. Source: V&A Collections 

Given this emphasis on building and testing things you won't be surprised to learn that the core of this module is a series of activities (see the PRDA Contents page for links to the activities). The module is divided into weekly sessions and the general pattern for each week is a presentation by you on Thursday mornings (10.00-11.00am in Portland 2.3) of your work from the previous week, followed by a short introduction to the new session topic and the associated activity. During the week you will be engaged in self managed project activities supplemented by lectures, tutorials and practical workshop sessions when staff will be available to discuss your work and provide support as required. The module is supported by a bibliography that provides all the background information you need to get started. If you want to see how it all comes together, take a look at the module assignment.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Create a digital photographic history research archive from primary sources.
  • Digitise, optimise for the Web and appropriately licence historical source materials.
  • Build a simple database and use it to find, filter and analyse historical data.
  • Employ a user-centred approach to the design of information resources and evaluate designs via paper and online prototypes.

Teaching and learning methods


As you can see from the Introduction, this isn't a traditional lecture based module of the kind that you may be used to from undergraduate studies. Instead its founded on the idea that learning isn't simply about transmitting knowledge from one person (me) to another (you), rather its about creating meaning together through dialogue and exploration. This constructivist view of learning acknowledges that you probably already know quite a lot about at least some aspects of the course and that whatever you learn from it will be profoundly influenced by your prior knowledge, skills, beliefs, experiences and values. It follows from this that your learning experiences will be different from each of your peers on the course and that you can, and should, both give and learn a lot from the others. That's what the group activities are designed to help you do. We've also designed the activities to reflect real tasks that researchers, curators, dealers, etc. have to tackle. This Problem-Based-Learning (PBL) approach allows you to draw on your own experiential knowledge, to make mistakes and learn from them through reflection. As such it introduces the kinds of skills and practices needed to be a successful researcher. And through group interaction you will have opportunities to see and appreciate different perspectives on a problem. All of these are valuable professional and team-working skills for life beyond university.

  Cowboy Lesson © Getty Images. Source:

So, although all the topics covered by the module are adressed in this wiki, this isn't a distance learning course and these wiki pages are not the content you have to learn. The real content will come from the face to face seminar and workshop activities, supplemented by lectures where necessary. The wiki provides a framework for delivering and supporting the activities and it's a space where you can reflect on your experiences, gather resources and build your own content. You will find throughout the wiki notes that have been added bu previous students on the course. You are encouraged to follow their example and add your own noted to help enrich and extend the resource. You can also use the wiki to present and discuss topics when the people you want to talk to are not around. (Use your personal pages to make notes, upload pictures and slide presentations, see the Student & staff pages 2013-2014. This mixture of face to face and online interaction is known as Blended Learning and we have used it here to maximise your choices about how and when you study.

Follow this link to the PRDA Contents page to get started on the module

Back to the MA: Photographic History Main Page