Open up! A new strategy for the photographic collections of the Maria Austria Institute

Nelleke Van Zeeland, City Archives Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Meet the Maria Austria Institute: a Dutch photo agency that represents fifty-two top photographers, houses over seven million negatives and organizes exhibitions, publications and educational activities. Like so many other photo agencies, the Maria Austria Institute (MAI) struggles to find its position in the digital landscape. Traditional revenues through funds and offline sales for professional use are rapidly declining. In collaboration with the Amsterdam City Archives, MAI decided on a new approach: to open up the archives digitally, target for a broader audience and embrace the online possibilities for presentation, use and sales. To explain what this decision implies, we need to touch upon three topics: the technique (digitization, online platform), the relation to the public (crowd sourcing, new products) and the profile of MAI itself.

What does it mean to open up the collection to the public? What is a ‘broader audience’? How does targeting a larger public affect the profile of an organization, i.e. how does it change the way fellow institutions and the audience interact with the institute? Could the large-scale ‘archivist’s approach’ be a solution for other cultural heritage institutions as well? Our presentation will raise these questions and discuss them in light of the Maria Austria Institute’s newly-accessible archive.

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