Roman Vishniac Management


As specified in the project description, a selection process will be used for the digital archive. When there are duplicates of photographs, the print in the most optimal condition will be scanned. There is no need for the materials to be treated or cleaned because they are already in good condition. Negatives and contact sheets will not be scanned and will remain in the physical archive. A bibliography of useful sources and a finding aid for the non-photographic materials from the collection will be uploaded on the digital archive. This way, serious researchers will know what is in the collection. If for some reason a researcher is unable to come to ICP and requests a scanned copy of one of these sources, ICP would be happy to accommodate this. If certain materials are in demand, they will be considered for the digital archive.

Rehousing the collection is not a goal for the digitization project. Accessibility and preservation of the images are the two primary concerns. The materiality of the photograph is very important for researchers who are studying Vishniac. I believe that seeing the digital image of the prints will be useful for the average viewer who will be more concerned with what Vishniac photographed. However, serious researchers will be interested in the physical condition of the print and will most likely want to look at them in person. Therefore policies of access will not be changed. However, it is my hope that by giving people more access to view the images on the web, fewer people will need to handle the prints in person, which will ensure better long-term preservation.


A large scanner will be needed for the large prints that Vishniac made. The scanner needs to be able to produce high-quality images so ICP’s permanent records of Vishniac’s documents stay true to their original version. The quality of the print is of utmost importance when evaluating the artist’s work. At least 4 computers will be needed for this project and a network server so the staff can all access and add to the database will also be needed.


Metadata is essential to keeping accurate records of Vishniac’s work. I think the following information will be necessary when digitizing the prints for public audiences.

The artist’s name
accession number of print
published or unpublished number (so the viewer knows what has been published and what hasn’t)
written caption or title of print (specified on the print)
all accompanying written captions from multiple publications (Vishniac often wrote different captions for the same photograph in various publications)
geographical location
artist’s notes on the back of print
stamps on the back of the print that indicate where/when the artist printed the photograph
the medium (most of the prints are gelatin silver prints)
presentation of the print (some of them are mounted on boards that were used in previous exhibits as far back as the 1940s. The material of the board, whether it is archival material or not, often indicates which exhibit it was used for)
current location of the print (indicating if it is at ICP)
measurements of the print

The funding for the digitization project would ideally come from NEH grants. Perhaps organizations like the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research would donate money to the project.


The staff for this project would include:
A curator who has extensive knowledge of the Vishniac collection
A project manager
A temporary data entry technician would be hired for a year or two until the project is completed. If there is not enough money in the budget to cover this, ICP could rely on the work of several interns.

The data technician will be responsible for handling and cataloging the prints, writing metadata, and entering information into the database. The project manager will oversee the digitization project, train the data entry technician to handle the prints, come up with a plan for cataloging the prints, create initial design for website (planning the categories and search engines that would be used for navigating the site), and write the text for the website. The curator is of course responsible for extensive research, working with Mara Vishniac to make critical decisions, organizing the selection committee and working with development to raise money for the archive and exhibit. The curator will make all major decisions for cataloging and digitizing the collection.

I would want to rely on the infrastructure of ICP to support the digitization project. Therefore, I would want to use in-house scanners (who are already paid to be there), an in-house IT person to answer any questions about setting up the database, and in-house registrars to write condition reports for the prints. We would need to hire a consultant to do web-design. As noted in the project description, a selection committee will be established to ensure diverse perspectives are incorporated in the formation of this archive (see project description to see who would be in the selection committee).


1) First all prints will be numbered and scanned
2) All images need to be added to the database and then metadata will be added for each print. The data entry technician will start with images that are not owned by ICP.
3) Quality control. The project manager will oversee the data entry by making sure the correct image has been scanned and that the correct metadata has been added. The PM, will also ensure that the orientation of the image is correct, that is has not been cropped, and that the resolution of the print is good.
4) The Selection Committee will convene and select the prints that will be uploaded on the digital archive.
5) The PM will write the text and come up with a scheme for organizing the prints for the website. The PM will run all ideas by the curator for approval.
6) The PM will work with a web designer to set up the website and upload all of the images. They will work together on hyperlinking and creating appropriate search engines.

Initial Thoughts for Web Design:

The digital archive will display a series of thumbnails of the Vishniac prints (this way the viewer can glance at the prints and make personal choices about which images they would like to spend time studying). The viewer can click on the image to see each one isolated from the rest. There will be special features that allow the viewer to zoom in and look closer at the details of the print. Both high-resolution and low-resolution scans of each image will be available to accommodate all users. Printing the images will be an option.

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