On the occasion of the announcement of some preliminary studies to analyse how to carry out the conservation and digitisation of the Planas Archive, we get to know first-hand the impressions and experiences of David Iglésias Franch.
Let’s get to know David Iglésias Franch a little better. We know that he has a degree in History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and in Documentation from the Open University of Catalonia. He has a postgraduate degree in New Technologies for management and access to information from the Escuela Politécnica Superior de Cataluña. He is currently Head of the Department of Photography and Audiovisual Archives of Girona City Council, scientific coordinator and teacher. He is also an author and contributor to publications and curated exhibitions on photography. His research focuses on digital images.
These studies have received the support of the Govern de les Illes Balears through the Dep. de Modelo de Trabajo y Turismo; and European Funds with a direct subsidy of 29.000€.
Will the digitisation of the archives be a priority for the preservation of the original material?
The existence of the archive is key because it bears witness to an event that took place a little less than a century and a half ago in our history, which is the era of chemical photography. This is a cultural phenomenon that has left such an important legacy as photographic archives. There is interest in the priority object which is the photographic archive from the material point of view, the objective is to preserve the testimony of this era. On the other hand, this era leads us to the current era of the digital image, because it has a precedent which is the era of engraving, books of romanticism, of travel books. All that was created in the 19th century, therefore, is a common thread in what is modern visual culture. It is essential that we focus our efforts on preserving these archives.
Digitisation is essential to exist, if there is no digitisation, archives have no presence in today’s world because everything goes online. If you have an archive, you have to be on the web in order to have the possibility of reusing this archive and for the archive to have the public interest it deserves. This inevitably involves digitising and transforming all this reality that is concentrated in the original photographic archive. This has many implications, it is not a simple digitisation or a publication of images; rather, there is a whole work of contextualisation so that these images can be understood in their proper context, that of 20th-century photography.
Why is it important to maintain the same international nomenclature?
It is essential to work with standards so that the information we generate with this digitisation, with this online publication of the archives, is well understood and allows good exploitation of the data. We have to communicate with the outside world, it is no longer a catalogue of an archive, but an archive catalogue that goes onto the networks and that will be consulted by the cultural sphere, that of archives, museums, libraries, etc. But in the end, it will be consulted by anyone anywhere in the world. They will be images that will be visualised in any software, any operating system, anywhere. The information we generate must be understandable for people and at the same time for machines. This forces us to generate information that is standardised. This is why it is important that when we set up a system, it is one that is oriented in this direction.
What is important is that when we have an image with an X platform we can know who the author is, where it was made, if there is a copyright, the information of the iconographic content or whatever we want to know. For this reason, it is important to set up a system oriented to the wide exploitation of the information. Creating this base will be indispensable in order to be able to overcome any technological or language barriers later on.
What are the main challenges posed by technological obsolescence?
Everything that is linked to technology requires us to be active. We must work with images that are adaptable, transformable and that can survive in any environment. We must project an archive that is adaptable, we always work with data, with digital information, and for example, at the level of formats, we must look for formats that adapt to time and are active. We must be concerned with this digital preservation and with making these images interpretable over time. It is a question that we will continually encounter, so these are situations that need to be resolved.
What would you highlight about the Casa Planas project promoted by Marina Planas in relation to innovation in the archives?
The most important thing about the approach taken at Casa Planas is the fact of generating a context for the archives, that is to say, a creative context. Archives are a source of information, but also a source of inspiration for creation. The fact of focusing on an archive with a theme mainly about tourism in the islands and giving it this orientation is totally in line with the orientation that we want to give to archives at a European level. There are many European projects that are promoting this creative component in order to give different visions of the archive or to be able to generate new materials inspired by an X base. Therefore, the fact of linking citizens, of not isolating archives in the purely patrimonial, cultural sphere; but the fact of broadening and making these archives participatory in itself is an innovative fact and very much what the European Union is thinking about in terms of the projection of all cultural heritage.
What do you think about the shift in preservation strategies due to climate change in relation to digitisation?
Digital information is electronic and for this reason, the main concern is the maintenance of this whole structure that needs energy. This is a weak point, as we can lose information, together with all the current concerns about the maintenance of data, media, updating, information structures, etc. A lot of knowledge has been generated on how to interpret data and on the other hand, the whole issue of data redundancy gives us a certain degree of security. The main issue is how we maintain these infrastructures.
Why do the archives have to be activated/interpreted by different agents and by citizens?
The main issue is that in the case of the photographic image, the image is a universal element, therefore, everybody consumes the image and it is a medium in which everybody feels comfortable. This part of the heritage is a part to share. The public must be reached and involved in the interpretation of the archive at any level. If photography is universal, the output must have this universal vocation and the involvement of the greatest possible number of agents and of the citizenry itself will make the archives acquire the dimension that is theirs in the city. As an element of identity, but also as a source of inspiration.