The Tibet Album website has been developed as part of a collaborative project between the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, and the British Museum, London (for further information about this project, please see related pages on this website). One of the reasons why these two institutions decided to collaborate together, as is explained elsewhere, is that they both curate important collections of photographs taken by British officials on diplomatic missions to Tibet between 1920-50. As has also been explained elsewhere in this site, one of the notable features of these collections is their inter-connectedness across both institutions.
This page will explain some of the methodological implications of this linkage when developing ways of exploring and presenting the images online.
The project was funded as part of the Resource Enhancement Scheme of the Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK. This resulted in a somewhat different methodological approach than if the project had been a pure research project. In this latter case, it would have been possible to select and ‘discard’ images for their perceived fit into a research profile or for aesthetic or other reasons.
For resource enhancement purposes, however, no image should be given greater priority than any other within the timeframe and geographical boundaries that defined the project in the first instance – the date range 1920 to 1950 and the geographical region of central Tibet in a set of named collections. This meant that the core metadata of even flawed images (out of focus or damaged negatives, for example) had to be given weight and contribute to the site – core metadata in this case being details such as who took the photograph, when and where they did so etc..
It is sometimes assumed that this kind of basic information automatically accompanies collections when they enter the museum. In fact this is only occasionally the case, even when the collections have been donated by the original collectors themselves. Therefore, the apparently simple objective of identifying ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘who’ and ‘when’ about the photographs, issues which would underpin any further theoretical analysis, was a core objective of the project. This impacted greatly on the methodological focus of the project.
Dr Mandy Sadan, Project Manager/Researcher, 2006