As you’ve come to find out, there are a lot of little things that go into making our collection safe and available. One of the most fun pieces of the puzzle (at least in my opinion), is the photography. By then all the little details like catalging and numbering are done, and it is time to just snap away.
There are quite a few reasons why we take photographs of items in the collection. For one, it helps us internally by providing images in our database, The Museum System, so every department, from exhibition to public outreach, can see the items in the collection without needing to handle them frequently. This helps us protect and preserve the items. We also use photographs to populate our online database (http://www.chs.org/emuseum), enabling people from far and wide to see our collections.
Although every item may not get star-quality photography (that often consists of hiring a professional photographer and is usually limited to hard-to-photograph items), each one is carefully photographed using a photography set-up consisting of lighting, adjustable tripod, high resolution digital camera, table (for small items) and photography paper. Sometimes we even have to use props to get the best pictures, like our genderless head on a stand you can see to the left! It certainly does help to get an idea of a hat’s shape and style when you can put it on a head.
Most of the time photography is done by Diane Lee and her slew of volunteers and interns. When I can, I get in on the action and take costume and accessory photographs. Although it is not one of the major parts of my job, it is one that I quite enjoy.
Photographing items means they are almost done. They are almost a fully integrated part of the collection. And most importantly, it means they can be boxed, put in a permanent home, and get off my work table!