Genealogy: Photographing museums and archives

10-15-2014 9-34-33 AMBy Barry J. Ewell

For over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.  Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research.

I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned when photographing in museums and archives.

  1. Check firsttoseeifphotographyis allowed.
    1. Most museums and archives will allow photography without a flash.
  2. Objects covered with glass or plastic are best shot at an angle.
    1. Glass/plastic will reflect a flash or act like a mirror and reflect your image under natural light; consider photographing the object at an angle.
  3. Snap a separate picture of a caption or a label of the exhibit.
  4. Use the tripod along with your camera’s self-timer night/lowlight setting:
    1. Lack of good lighting is usually the norm in museums.
    2. Use the tripod to steady your image.
    3. When you encounter very low light situations, try putting your camera on night setting and enabling your self-timer.
    4. With the steadiness of the tripod and camera settings you should be able to get some good quality photos.
  5. No Tripod? Then brace yourself:
    1. If it is too dark and there is no tripod, leaning against a wall or a pillar, or supporting your camera against a bench, a chair, or a staircase rail will be a good remedy in that situation.
    2. If a subject is important enough, by all means take an extra shot.