For session 4
As I mentioned in my video podcast, many types of objects can be considered texts. Let’s take photographs because they are the easiest to explain.
A photograph as document or text is a practical example of what Buckland is discussing. While I’ve included some links in the syllabus to photographs, here’s a new example. F&P Daguerreotype Panorama of Cincinnati Shoreline in 1848 http://1848.cincinnatilibrary.org/ contains lots of information.
We can use this photograph to understand the development of the city as a port, as a trade. Historians use the photograph to study the development of streets, the layout of the city, the types of businesses, even clothing and transportation. Transportation historians can study the boats, wagons, and buggies. If you have enough magnification, you can read the names of businesses on buildings and signs.
In the background you see the city and the rural areas or farms. Even the streets are visible. The longer you study the photograph, the more information it will reveal. What do you think the photograph tells you? What would a cultural historian find? What about an anthropologist or urban historian?
What about the photograph itself? It is a daguerreotype, one of the oldest and most durable types of photograph of the nineteenth century. Most daguerreotypes are of people; this one is of a city. Imagine how far away the photographer had to stand to capture the entire cityscape. He must have stood in Kentucky!
The same principles of object as text apply to sculpture, buildings, ceramic pots, and textiles. How will you apply Buckland’s theory to these objects?