The Non-Professional Archaeological Photographs project has the aim to preserve non-professional documentation of archaeological campaigns – prior to the 1980s – to the future and make it accessible to the public via digital archives. Furthermore, the project pleads for an international collaboration between archaeological institutions in order to connect these digital archives and bring them under the attention of the public by the use of this website.
The term ‘non-professional’ refers to records made by visitors or participants of excavations who were not part of the trained staff, but who assisted as part of their continuing education or out of interest, for instance students, volunteers, reporters or sponsors. Secondly, this category of documentation includes also the private photos, slides or films made at the excavation by the archaeological staff.
As the discipline of archaeology has developed significantly during the last six decades, it is inevitable that the views on how the progress and finds of an excavation should be recorded, have changed as well. All the developments that have influenced archaeological recording suggest that there may be a hiatus between what archaeologists actually recorded in the past and what we nowadays expect them to have documented at the time. It is the basic assumption of this project that the former ‘non-professionals’ may be the ones who are able to fill in the possible gap in the official documentation published by the academic staff, including in the area of archaeological photography.
The project will in the first instance focus on the period 1950-1980. This period is very interesting, because the lack of ubiquitous multimedia, poor photographic recording techniques and the high costs of the reproduction of photographs in those days generally restricted the amount of official documentation. By choosing the middle of the last century as starting-point, the presence of students and volunteers at an excavation is more likely and the chance that former non-professionals are still alive is fairly high, which would simplify the tracing considerable. The tracing will be possible, on the one hand, with the aid of registers that are kept in universities and archaeological institutions, containing personal details of former participants, and, on the other hand, with the aid of the internet and social media.
Join the NPAPH project!
Based on the reasons described at the section ‘Principles’, it will be useful for archaeological institutions to trace non-professional photographs of their excavations, to digitise and place them in an accessible digital archive for both scholars and the general public, and to participate in the NPAPH project. It will be worth the effort! After all, ‘digging’ into the archaeological past in this way will not only be beneficial to present archaeological research, but it will also be an inspiring assignment for our students and volunteers of today, to assist in the process of tracing, collecting and digitising photographs.