Online Resources for Historical Photographic Processes: A Preliminary Discussion of User Experience [EN]

Mariana Hartenthal e Cintia Eitelwein

 

The Graphics Atlas, created by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Image Permanence Institute, and the
Printed Picture, maintained by Yale University, are important web-based resources about historical
photographic technology, each with distinctive features in terms of content, focus, and presentation. Based on
the experiences of researchers of Brazil’s photographic history who often use these platforms, we will take
the two examples as departing points to discuss online tools maintained by American, British, and French
organizations. What are the advantages and shortcomings of each case? Drawing from user experience (UX)
practices and guidelines, this preliminary examination of online resources will center on the platforms’
usability – accounting for factors such as intuitive design, ease of learning, efficiency of use, and memorability
– as well as content presentation to understand how users can find the information they need. We will also
consider which photographic processes are privileged and neglected, and how taxonomies of image-making
processes inform the website architecture in obvious or nonobvious ways. As scholars from a peripheral
country, we will also discuss how online tools created by central countries can help or hinder the
comprehension of specific aspects of the multiple ‘histories’ of photographic technology. By comparing
different examples and suggesting possible improvements, this paper seeks to contribute to a better
understanding of the use of digital tools in heritage education in general and in the history of photography in
particular, especially considering the global reach of web-based research instruments.

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