Accepted Paper:

The making of a community, the making of a photo collection in a rural community in Italy  


Michele Fontefrancesco (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the collection of historic, private photos and the creation of a public photographic archive as a community building process: The retrieval, donation and engagement through exhibitions of the photos allow people to engage with and reinvent their sense of community and its past.

Paper long abstract:

Photos are per excellence evocative objects (Turkle, 2007). The paper interrogates the role of the capacity of the photos to trigger narrations about the self and the past. It argues that the collection of historic, private photos and the creation of a public photographic archive act as a community building process.

The paper is the result of an ethnographic work conducted in Lu (AL) between 2010 and 2012. In this village, the local museum organized a public collection of private and public photos dated from the late decades of the 19th century to the 1960s, in order to create a freely accessible internet archive. In a few months, in a village of about 1000 people, over 1000 photos were donated. On the basis of the collected photos, the museum organized periodical exhibitions that attracted many hundred visitors.

The research investigates the entire process of photo collection, collective organization of a new photographic archive, its use for the organization of photo exhibitions, and the participation to these initiatives by local and foreign visitors. In particular focusing on the exhibitions as arena of social interactions, the paper investigates the process of evocation of the past of the community as a way through which the sense of belonging to a community, that is the very sense of community , is negotiated and re-shaped.

Panel P05
Reviving the archives as pictorial histories