Photography and documentation, 4 – 8 December 2017. Written by Claire Messenger.

This week we take a break again from the summer programme.  From 4 – 8 December 2017 the ITP team delivered the second ITP+ Course – this time on Photography and Documentation – when we welcomed 10 ITP fellows back to London for a one-week programme.  ITP+ courses are a wonderful way to reconnect with our Fellows, to gather colleagues together with a particular interest in a theme, to really focus on a specific topic and for the ITP team, they give us a great opportunity to catch-up with a smaller group of fellows.

We were delighted to invite the following Fellows back to the UK:

  • Amos Letsoalo, Art Curator, Polokwane Art Museum (South Africa, ITP Fellow 2008)
  • Assayed El Banna, General Director for Administration of Registrations & Documentation for Lower Egypt, Canal Area & Sinai Museums, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (Egypt, ITP Fellow 2007)
  • Dora Jok, Curator, Ethnology and collection management section, Sarawak Museum (Malaysia, ITP Fellow 2016)
  • Fadzai Muchemwa, Assistant Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe, ITP Fellow 2017)
  • Gertrude Aba Eyifa-Dzidzienyo, Lecturer, Univeristy of Ghana (Ghana, ITP Fellow 2009)
  • Ikhlas Alkrm, Head of Documentation Unit, Sudan National Museum (Sudan, ITP Fellow 2016)
  • Ntombovuyo Tywakadi, Collections Assistant, Iziko Museums of South Africa (South Africa, ITP Fellow 2016)
  • Paul Michael, Education Officer, National Museum of Tanzania (Tanzania, ITP Fellow 2012)
  • Shuzheng Liu, Assistant research fellow, National Museum of China (China, ITP Fellow 2015)
  • Waed Awesat, PhD student, University of Paris 1 (Palestine, ITP Fellow 2014)

The aim of this course was to enable fellows to broaden their understanding of how to develop, manage and deliver a documentation system to help manage their collections. The course also supported and advised fellows on how to get the best from their photography with whatever equipment and space they had available. By the end of the course, fellows had created a project proposal plan for their institutions.

Sessions during the week included:-

  • The benefits and challenges of effective documentation
  • Planning your project and writing a documentation policy
  • Choosing a database system that works for you and your institution
  • How to write an object entry
  • Studio and site photography
  • Object lighting; best practice
  • Understanding exposure; aperture; white balance and noise
  • Creative photography and how it can improve the images you produce

Considering the core learning strands, the course was developed around project-based learning. The key issues in creating a documentation policy for the fellows’ institutions were delivered by Sara Kayser, then Project Curator: Egypt Documentation (Egypt and Sudan) and John Williams, Chief Photographer, Collections Services (Photography and Imaging) through the context of their current and recent projects and programmes.

The course provided an opportunity for fellows to re-connect with departmental representatives and meet new BM staff. We were also delighted to welcome colleagues from around the UK: Katrina Thomson, Collections Consultancy Manager, National Trust South West Region; Louise Smyth, Training and Development Adviser, National Museums Northern Ireland; and Ronan Brindley, Head of Learning, Manchester Art Gallery, who were able to meet the group and take the opportunity to exchange news and views on global culture and heritage.

Additionally, the ITP+ course aimed to support fellows in creating a project proposal plan for their institution. As pre-course preparation prior to the programme, we asked attendees to outline their current documentation policy – briefly detailing their ideas, their aims and objects, and what they hoped to achieve – and to provide images they had taken of objects from their collections. These gave the two course facilitators the basis from which to develop the sessions, and over the course of the week fellows were able to adapt, revise and develop their proposal into a full project scope document.

The ITP team – with the kind help of Sara Kayser and John Williams – also created a series of toolkits, guidance notes and course resources which you can still find here – https://bmtrainingprog.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/bm-itp-photography-documentation-toolkit.pdf

Outside of the course, we also had some fun – of course!!   Delivering a programme so near to the Christmas break enabled us to enjoy some festive cheer around the capital.  We had a wonderful Christmas meal at a local restaurant and visited Christmas at Kew, a magical after-dark trail around Kew Gardens with incredible light displays, street food vendors and festive drinks and hot chocolate under the stars.

Finally, for the first time, we asked two of our fellows to deliver a staff talk about the ITP’s legacy projects. Dora Jok (Malaysia, ITP 2016) and Gertrude Aba Eyifa-Dzidzienyo (Ghana, ITP 2009), alongside colleagues Eleanor Chant, Project Co-ordinator, National Programmes at the British Museum and Ronan Brindley, Head of Learning, Manchester Art Gallery, spoke to BM staff on The International Training Programme: beyond the Summer Programme. Dora and Aba’s enthusiastic and heartfelt contribution to the session gained wide praise from colleagues around the Museum – and brought a tear to my eye!!!!