45th Annual Meeting – Photographic Materials Session, May 30, “The Fiocruz Collections: Discussing the Preservation of its Photographic Archives” by Nathália Vieira Serrano

Nathália Vieira Serrano’s talk focussed on the “incorporation” and “disincorporation” (accessioning/deaccessioning) of archival documents in the Department of Archives and Documentation at Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, in Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, in Rio de Janeiro. She discussed the overarching framework that was developed to help guide decisions of accessioning and deaccessioning collection materials, and then as a case study, the application of this framework to a specific collection–a collection of history of science of public health. This collection consists of glass plate negatives, roll and sheet film, all by various photographers and on different themes including, history, health education, scientific divulgation, and life sciences. A survey determined that the images were still in good shape, as were their supports.

The talk was a nice example of the challenges staff in the world of preservation face when needing to determine what can stay and what needs to go, the many factors to consider, and the criteria and prioritization to establish when making such important decisions. Serrano mentioned the mission of Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, the difference between multidisciplinary vs transdisciplinary, and the different stakeholders (researchers, collection managers, and potential current and future interested parties) that are taken into account. She also referred to Salvador Muñoz Viñas writings on contemporary theory of conservation and his statement that conservation is not a neutral act.

I appreciate how it is difficult to convey fully in a 20-25 minute talk the complexity of these types of projects. There are so many interesting points to think about, large and small, and people from different points of interest that are part of the decision making process. If there is one area I would have been interested in learning more about, it was some similarities and differences in their approach when compared to other national and international institutions. The presentation also gave insight to a large collection in Rio de Janeiro, how it is stored, and the building and environment that surrounds it.

Two questions that were asked after the talk were:

  • Is cost considered when deciding whether or not to deaccession? Answer: The survey is still underway, but cost will likely be considered.
  • What is the size of the collection? Answer: Still to be determined. (But an image was shown of the storage area the collection takes up)