Family Photography and American History

Sarah McNair Vosmeier

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Course Description
This course concerns the snapshots and studio portraits that are part of ordinary Americans' everyday lives -- the photos on your phone and the ones your relatives keep in desk drawers or shoeboxes or photo albums.  We will be working with photos both as historians (especially in class discussions and lectures) and archivists (especially in workshops).

Historians make historical arguments based on primary sources, including photographs.  Like written documents, photographs tell us about the people associated with them as well as the society in which they were created.  Photographs also prompt us to consider the history of technology.

For every primary source a historian studies, other people have acted to insure its survival. Professional archivists maintain the physical conditions that prevent primary sources from deteriorating, and they facilitate our finding and using them.  In everyday life, certain family members take on similar responsibilities -- acting as "family archivists" when they keep photos and other memorabilia and when they share the family stories that go with them.

Calculating Final Grades

                12%     Preparation and Participation

                10%    Family Archivist Project
                12%    Teaching Presentation
                12%     Photo Analysis
                14%    Cataloging Project

                20%     Midterm
                20%     Final Exam

Nota Bene

Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an extended time on a single task and conversation.  Please do not multitask -- to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we will not use laptops, cell phones, etc. during lectures and discussions.  Thus you will need to bring assigned texts to class in paper form.  You will need a laptop and smartphone for workshops.

The archives reading room at the Duggan Library is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 to 5:00 -- you'll need to plan accordingly for assignments using archival material.

Late papers will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made up.  If you have an emergency and want to request an exception to this rule, contact me before the due date.

About texts needed for this class:

    Hacker's Rules for Writers
    All the assigned readings are available online, and you will need to print them out for notetaking and class discussion.
    Excel and Powerpoint (available to download from Office 365).

About Preparation, Participation, Papers, and Exams:

Three Projects draw on the skills used by archivists and "family archivists."
    For the Family Archivist Project, you will set up a procedure for caring for your most cherished digital images -- so that they will still be accessible and useful decades from now.
    For the Teaching Presentation, you will teach your classmates how to estimate the date of a photo based on the clothing people in it are wearing, with each student responsible for a different period in American history.
    For the Cataloging Project, you will identify and describe photos from the Duggan Library collection.  This project combines the work of professional archivists and of historians.

Photo analysis
    Students will make a historical argument based on close analysis of two photographs.  They will make their argument either in the form of a paper or an oral presentation. (Note that "must report" seniors will be required to write a paper.)  Choosing photographs from your Cataloging Project for this analysis would be an efficient use of your time.

    Blue-book exams will focus on history and historical analysis and will include essay questions and identifications (that is, paragraph-length historical essays).

Preparation and Participation:
    This class depends on everyone's preparing and participating fully.  People who excel in this aspect of the class show evidence of preparing carefully for class; they make useful comments or ask helpful questions in discussion and workshops; and they facilitate others' success as well. 
    Occasional brief assignments -- such as marginalia checks or study guide contributions -- allow you to demonstrate careful preparation for discussion, and they also facilitate our common endeavors.


Introduction, Definitions, and Background

Week One
May 1, 2017 (Mon)
Lecture: Introductions and definitions.
Workshop: Creating a Digital Family Archive and using the college archives.

May 2, 2017 (Tue)
Discussion: Vosmeier, "On Marginalia," 2016 (online); Hanover College History Department, "Style Sheet for Chicago Manual Footnotes" (online); Hacker, "Citing Sources; Avoiding Plagiarism," and "Integrating Sources." 
Lecture: Daguerreotypes.
Workshop: Daguerreotypes.

May 3, 2017 (Wed)
Discussion: Oestreicher, "From Artisan to Consumer," 1981 (online -- click on "pdf full text" and print the article). 
Lecture: Ambrotypes.
Workshop: Ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, and further research.

May 4, 2017 (Thu)
Lecture:  Wet plate photography -- including cartes de visite and tintypes. 
Discussion: Holmes, "My Hunt after 'The Captain,'" 1862; Holmes, "Doings of the Sunbeam," 1863  (excerpts online).
Workshop: Clothing in history.

May 5, 2017 (Fri)
Presentations: The history of American clothing.
Workshop: Photo analysis.

May 6, 2017 (Sat, 9:30-11:00, meet at the Duggan Archives)
Teaching and learning with the Trustee spouses.

Week Two

May 8, 2017 (Mon)
Family Archivist Project due.
Discussion:  Smith, "When Seeing Makes Scents," 2010 (online); Gallman, "Three Roads to Antietam," 2015; Janney, "A Family in Camp," 2015; Sheehan-Dean, "Looking at War," 2015 (These are chapters in a book.  Follow this link to the book, and then click the "download chapter" icon, which is second from the left.  In the window that opens, fill in the appropriate pages and download and print the resulting pdfs.  Gallman is on pages 41-49, Janney on 111-120, and Sheehan-Dean on 69-76.)
Lecture: t.b.a.

May 9, 2017 (Tue)
Lecture: Wet plate photography  -- including photo albums and cabinet cards.
Workshop:  Photo albums.

May 10, 2017 (Wed)
Discussion: Motz, "Visual Autobiography," 1989 (online); Hanover College news, 1903 (online).
Lecture: College life.

May 11, 2017 (Thu) - Meet at the Duggan Archives.
Workshop: Student portraits and other photographs; newspaper research.

May 12, 2017 (Fri)
Lecture: Dry plate photography
Discussion: Local news (email attachment).

Week Three
May 15, 2017 (Mon)
Midterm Exam (half-day class session).

May 16, 2017 (Tue)
Discussion: Barber, "The Roots of Travel Cinema," 1993 (online -- click "pdf full text" on the left and print out).
Workshop: Lantern Slides, stereocards, and further research.

May 17, 2017 (Wed)
Lecture: Kodak and the Snapshot.
Discussion: Olivier, "George Eastman's Modern Stone-Age Family," 2007 (online -- click "download pdf" at the top and print out).

May 18, 2017 (Thu)
Lecture: Mid-twentieth-century family photography -- including Kodachrome and Polaroid. 
Discussion: Sandweiss, "The Day in Its Color," 2007 (online -- click "pdf full text" on the left and print out); Kodak, How to Make Good Pictures, 30th edition, 1957 (photocopy pp. 44-59, on reserve).

May 19, 2017 (Fri)
Lecture: Family photography in recent decades -- including digital photography.
Workshop: Mid-twentieth-century photos.

Week Four

May 22, 2017 (Mon)
Lecture: Childhood in America.
Discussion: Gear, "Baby's Picture," 1987 (online -- click "download pdf" at top right and print out).

May 23, 2017 (Tue)
Lecture: Tourism in America.
Discussion: Greenwald, "On the History of Photography and Site/Sight Seeing at Yellowstone," 2007 (online -- click "download pdf" at top right and print out); Cavaliere, "Canada by Photograph," 2016 (online -- click "download pdf" at the top right).

May 24, 2017 (Wed)
Photo analysis (paper) due.
Discussion: Penner, "A Vision of Love and Luxury," 2004 (online -- click "pdf full text" on the left and print out).
Note: "Must report" seniors will take the final exam in the afternoon.

May 25, 2017 (Thu)
Final Exam.
Workshop: Late Twentieth-Century Photos.

May 26, 2017 (Fri)
Photo Analysis presentations.   
Cataloging Project due (end of day).
Workshop: Twenty-first-century photos, or t.b.a.