Arch. & Photog. (LONG)

Greg Finnegan (finnegan@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Mon, 2 Oct 1995 10:50:55 -0500

I'm a little puzzled at the query from Cliff Sloane seeking technical
information about archaeological photography, in that one can read the
posting as having an implicit expectation that because the Internet/Web has
information, all information is on the Internet/Web. T'ain't so, and, as
far as that goes, a goodly chunk of what IS there, in the form of data sets
and full texts, is public-domain US Government material, or, in a
relatively small number of cases, author's self-publishing or self-posting
material for which they control the copyright. But in my experience,
what's most useful about the WWW et al is the ability to piggyback on
others' findings of useful things; use of global search engines rapidly
runs up against not simply the sheer bulk of things which might or might
not be useful (as Mr. Sloane notes), but which also cannot be assumed to be
the only ones that MIGHT be useful, in the absence of any 'controlled
vocabulary' to ensure that all relevant material is retrieved.

It's a basic premise of information theory that "recall" and "precision"
are antithetical properties of a search: the wider the search, the greater
the likelihood that you'll get what you want (increased recall), but it'll
be mixed in with stuff you don't want (lower precision.) And the more
precise the search, the more you'll miss that might be relevant but is
indexed slightly (or majorly) differently. A handbook of archaeological
methods might have a chapter on exactly what Mr. Sloane's friend seeks, but
would not likely be indexed with the word "photography" at all, either
informally (by raw keyword searching) or formally, by "descriptors" or
subject headings. Finding it requires one's own knowledge that wider (or
narrower) focus--both of subject AND subject indexing, might mask that
which is sought. (MEDLINE is the only index that lets you 'explode'
subject headings to link more narrowly or broadly related terms.)

Under these combined circumstances of a wide but random range of material,
of varying quality, with no consistency in indexing, I would not go first
to the Internet/Web looking for the actual information I needed, I'd
instead use it to chase the large body of sources--usually, but not always,
printed ones--that ARE consistently indexed according to international
standards: books etc. in library catalogs. Library catalogs also have the
advantage, unlike the more or less parallel subject bibliographies of
articles (like ANTHROPOLOGICAL LITERATURE) of NOT having access limited to
licensed users. Many large research libraries, indeed, most of them, have
catalogs freely accessible on the Internet; almost every local academic
library catalog will give links to others, and services like the U MINN
root gopher and Yahoo, among others, will get you to an enormous range of
catalogs. Harvard's book catalog is freely accessible, as is the 9-campus
University of California MELVYL catalog. Many catalogs let you browse
subject headings, or "trace" them from a found record to all others with
the same heading. And, given that so much on the Internet IS so
un-organized, a good place to find links to existing (sometimes barely
existing!) sources is wherever specialists in that subject hang out--in
this case, VISCOM, the listserv for visual anthropology. Finally, as I've
harranged before on ANTHRO-L, for those reading this who have access to
local academic (or even large public) libraries, which I expect is most
subscribers, the reference librarians there can almost always come up with
a variety of strategies to locate the desired information--on or off the
Internet. While there will often be a anthropological specialist in the
library, the speciality of ALL reference librarians is finding paths
through the mass of information to what a library user needs.

In re photography & archaeology, Harvard's library catalog shows 24 books
with the heading "photgraphy in archaeology." A recent overview that might
well meet Mr. Sloane's friend's needs is:

AUTHOR: Howell, Carol L.
TITLE: A practical guide to archaeological photography / Carol L.
Howell, Warren Blanc.
PUB. INFO: Los Angeles : Institute of Archaeology, University of
California, 1992.
DESCRIPTION: vi, 136 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
SERIES: Archaeological research tools ; 6
SUBJECTS: *S1 Photography in archaeology.

One of several books that seem explicitly to address Mr. Sloane's query,
albeit none of them too recent, is:

AUTHOR: Conlon, Vera M.
TITLE: Camera techniques in archaeology [by] V. M. Conlon.
PUB. INFO: New York, St. Martin's Press [1973]
DESCRIPTION: xiv, 109 p. : illus. ; 23 cm.
SUBJECTS: *S1 Photography in archaeology.

and last, a major overview:

TITLE: Photography in archaeological research / edited by Elmer Harp,
EDITION: 1st ed.
PUB. INFO: Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, c1975.
DESCRIPTION: xxiii, 380 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
SERIES: School of American Research advanced seminar series
NOTES: "A School of American Research book."
Includes index.
Bibliography: p. 369-373.
ISBN: 0826303765 :

SUBJECTS: *S1 Photography in archaeology.
AUTHORS: *A1 Harp, Elmer.
*A2 School of American Research (Santa Fe, N.M.)
*A3 School of American Research advanced seminar series.

There's also a narrower subject heading "aerial photograpy in archaeology"
that will get lots of monographs and even a couple of bibliographies;
there're 68 'hits' in the Harvard online catalog, tho' some might be
related headings for the same book.

The Internet is a genuine & major Step Forward for researchers, but until
much happens with copyright law and the broader question of how "we"
support research, information storage, and programming of search software,
the two major things it's good for are the ability to communicate with
people all over who're interested in similar things (I daresay the many
Australians on ANTHRO-L have more frequent dialog with N.Am. & European
colleagues than they used to!) and finding indexing to published
material--most of it on paper, and 'retrieved' by local- or

Good luck to Mr. Sloane's friend.

Gregory A. Finnegan, PhD
Associate Librarian for Public Services
and Head of Reference
Tozzer Library
Harvard University
21 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138-2089
617-495-2253 fax 617-496-2741

"For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into
words or books." MOBY-DICK, chapter 110.