Libraries, museums and other cultural institutions have long been the “go to” places for historical images. Long before Getty, Google or commercial image repositories, libraries were the ones with direct access to the items needed. Imaging was time consuming, variable in quality and its usage was largely limited to academic publication; institutions could restrict access where appropriate and monitor usage without too much trouble.
In the age of the internet, the setup has changed. Images are usually digital and, once shared, very hard to control. Questions over whether they should be controlled in the first place have no easy answer. Some institutions—the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, for instance—try to make everything available. Others hold on to collections for various reasons, including copyright, revenue and their available resources.
Although there is a growing assumption that libraries and cultural institutions will make their images available for use online, the decision to do so is not always an easy one. Libraries must take into account copyright status, the need to generate revenue and even the conservation status of the items themselves. This chapter will explore DIY photography, the use of these digital images and how libraries build their policies around image use.
Weighing the pros and cons
More and more institutions are, quite admirably, moving towards openness and accessibility, and this should be encouraged and fostered wherever possible. There are, however, perfectly valid considerations—both positive and negative—for institutions developing their policy on DIY digitization or photography. Although the benefits are many, there are practical implications to explore.
On the positive side, generous policies towards photography can only benefit most scholars. Access to original material is often limited, whether by conservation status or by time and funding. Few researchers can spend as much time as they would like in the reading room. Depending on their research needs, photography that allows them to capture information for later study and record details more quickly can help them to make the most of the collections. Researchers can focus on what they need, rather than what a library or funder has decided is most important. One researcher may wish to examine endbands and another only marginalia. These types of features often get left out of large-scale institutional digitization projects, although this practice is changing. David Rundle describes with some frustration the internet as the “domain of pretty things: the visual works better than the textual, and the more eye-catching the image, the better”. Yet there is “an opportunity to serve the wider range of users who are likely to be interested in the manuscript”; in fact, just getting images of the text itself and the other bits that the general public might consider visually “boring” is crucial for most researchers.
DIY digitization can benefit more than just researchers. Most institutions simply cannot digitize all the items they would like, and digitization projects are often led by project funding. Project funding usually leads to a focus on discrete areas of content or popularity, meaning that researchers with more esoteric interests may not benefit. Researchers’ photos can fill real gaps in the availability of digitized items. Of course, this requires the photos to be of sufficiently high quality to be useful to others. Furthermore, these photos must be accessible so that others can find them, get appropriate information from them and feel confident that they have permission to use them.
The practical implications and potential barriers should not go unconsidered. Not all libraries or cultural institutions are equipped to deal with DIY collection photography in the same way. Libraries need to think in advance about the impacts that photography will have on their collections, their staffing and indeed their financial bottom line. For most institutions, this simply means ensuring that procedures are in place and conversations have been had, but others may choose to be more careful. There are issues to be considered around rights, quality and accessibility that can impact how the images are used. One of the most important issues—and the one that has not yet been successfully addressed by institutions—is how to make the images useful to more than just the researcher. How does an institution keep these images from sitting in their own silo and bring them into the resource discovery process? When is it appropriate to do so? These issues, among others discussed in the following sections, should form the minimum set of considerations on which institutions’ policies and discussion are based.
Copyright & openness
It is tempting for some institutions to insist that DIY digitization is not an option for copyright reasons, but this is not the case for all material. That does not mean that copyright should not be considered. The implications are two-fold: institutions need to consider the circumstances under which they allow photography and the institutional rules surrounding the use of that photography.
While early modern books are almost guaranteed to be out of copyright, any reading room supervisor, rare books librarian or archivist will know that special collections can present a minefield of copyright law and donor conditions. In order to implement photography guidelines effectively, staff members need to be aware not only of current copyright law but may also need to be au fait with their institution’s systems for keeping track of copyright holders and rights. When researchers are not allowed cameras and have to go via staff members to request images, it is fairly easy to check copyright as a part of the process. When reading rooms allow DIY photography, however, communication and planning are required.
It is important that libraries and other institutions fulfil their legal obligations in alerting researchers to what they are allowed to copy, and photography is no different. Special collections present a much more complicated landscape. Libraries should consider how they can easily and clearly convey to their users what material is likely to be in copyright, taking into account their legal obligations in this area and without, of course, undertaking to provide legal advice themselves. It is also important to convey what material may be subject to additional restrictions for various reasons; for example, material on deposit or where additional donor- or institution-imposed restrictions are in place. Where images are being used for research purposes only (e.g. taken home and used only privately by the researcher), the risks of use are fairly minimal. When images are or may be used online or in publication, by permission or otherwise, the institution needs to consider how it can protect itself and its relationship with its donors.
Institutions’ rules around usage of DIY images should be carefully considered and as open as possible. There may of course be legal minimum requirements; in the UK, images must usually be available for private research and educational purposes under fair dealing and many other countries have similar requirements. At the other extreme, an institution may allow them to be considered public domain and used for commercial purpose, as the British Library has done with the images it put on Flickr. It is important to note that the British Library has not put all of its images there, even the ones that are out of copyright; the “greats” and the treasures are not part of the Flickr Commons selection. This is likely due in part to the method by which the British Library received the images (gifted by Microsoft after a scanning project), but also to do with commercial pressures. As Charlotte Sexton, formerly of the National Gallery, noted:
“Everyone understands that open access is the way to go, but organisations are in different places, and we’re facing a conflicting set of challenges … On the one hand, museums are still making money from the sale of images. That income, though, has been decreasing. You have that commercial concern butting up against this desire to go for free access.”
This is particularly true in a world in which cultural institutions face reduced funding and costs from increased regulation.
There are other areas that specific institutions might address, depending on their collections and needs. Institutions may feel it helpful to articulate expectations around cultural expressions and moral rights. Being clear about these types of questions and usage will help users understand what libraries expect and goes a long way towards preventing issues down the line.
Quality and reputation
Is there any benefit to an organization in ensuring that only high-quality reproductions of their collections make it online? Does it damage the organization if others put up lower quality versions? Abby Smith maintains, “the only reason that we expect [an] image to be a truthful representative of the original is that we can rely on the integrity of the institution that has mounted the files and makes them available to us”. Is an image taken by an institution itself automatically more useful than one taken by a researcher? There is no one answer to these questions. Many argue that it behoves the institution to digitize their collections and make high-quality images available, so that those images are the first ones that online visitors see. That is one of the justifications for large museums putting their digital content online themselves or in places like Google Cultural Institute. Institutions concerned with how digital assets may contribute to their reputation may be concerned that lower quality images detract from their brand or even their authority. As Rijksmuseum director of collections Taco Dibbets said in 2013, “With the Internet, it’s so difficult to control your copyright or use of images that we decided we’d rather people use a very good high-resolution image of the ‘Milkmaid’ from the Rijksmuseum rather than using a very bad reproduction”. Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Stromberg notes that once you put material online, users do not always care where it comes from; “when they’re looking at a Winslow Homer painting in the cloud, they don’t care if it came from the Met or the Smithsonian—they’re just looking at a painting”.
On the other hand, the availability of useable research assets—even imperfect ones—is better than none. Libraries have been providing fuzzy black and white scans since the mid-twentieth century without significant reputational damage. Bodleian Libraries, for instance, provides access to digital scans of 35mm slides, while The National Archives provides access to digitized microfilm records. A researcher might take photos that provide legible access to text that has previously been unavailable online, or straightforward photos that are not as high-resolution as one might hope. But if they and others are able to use them, the ability to conduct research easily can only benefit the institution’s reputation.
Organizations thinking about their approach to DIY digitization should consider whether there are any reputational reasons to “gatekeep” which material goes online. It may be that there are good reasons when it comes to certain items or certain types of content. If research and public access is at the core of what these institutions do, however, some access may be many times better than none. It may even be the case that institutions can work with researchers to use their images and provide better overall access to collections.
Commercial and financial interests
It is not uncommon to hear the claim that cultural institution picture libraries are no longer viable; William Noel, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Schoenberg Institution and formerly of the Walters Art Museum, states that “this is sort of an open secret, but in the vast majority of cases, this is not a business model that works”. It is true that the days where the institution was the only one who could take images and could thus guarantee a reliably steady flow of income from reproductions are gone.
That does not mean that every institution can simply let go of the revenue that reproductions may bring them; many depend on it. While some institutions are struggling to generate revenue from picture libraries, others make them work successfully. If digitization or reproduction fees supplement income, policies around DIY digitization might affect this income. Institutions may need to look at their own budgets to determine what sort of usage rights are granted to researchers who take their own images and at what cost.
Many institutions seek to supplement lost income or to cover staff time in helping to administer reading room photography by charging a fee to researchers who take photos. As Daryl Green has noted in his roundup of policies, these fees vary wildly and can run anything from a nominal daily fee to a relatively high per-item or per-photo cost. Institutions should be careful that any charges imposed benefit the organization overall, rather than just in terms of budget; a charge that brings in income but is so high as to frustrate researchers and impede research may be neither effective nor desirable. Institutions may also consider the ways in which various types of permissions might affect the administrative load on staff members; prohibitive or unclear guidance will increase the number of enquiries about use.
It may seem an obvious point but institutions should consider conservation status in their policies and be explicit in how they address it. Researchers are almost always careful and considerate in their handling of items but many will not be trained in proper handling, much less in how to take decent photographs without putting collections at risk. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see all sorts of mishandling in the quest for a better photo and not unheard of for staff to have to ask researchers not to stand on desks, use flash or weight medieval manuscripts with their elbows.
Good guidance and training for researchers can help immensely, and institutions should consider how and where they can best make this available. A round up of the top factors to consider (e.g. no flash, using supports correctly) could be made available when researchers arrive and further specific training in photography could be considered. The British Library provides an excellent example of straightforward and friendly advice on its collection care blog. A quick Google, however, shows that the information that comes up first is provided mainly by booksellers and private individuals; libraries and other institutions should ensure that they are happy with the information their researchers can access and provide better information if needed. This depends, of course, on the time and availability of staff members to provide this training but can go a long way towards protecting the collections while helping both researchers and staff members do their jobs more efficiently.
Institutions must also consider under what circumstances items may not be suitable for DIY photography at all and how to communicate and police these guidelines. There may be times when items can be photographed by staff but not by researchers. Staff should be clear on how and when to make these assessments.
Metadata and accompanying information
One of the most frustrating things about DIY digitization—or indeed any digitization, as institutions themselves are sometimes at fault—is when images are made available without the accompanying metadata or other information that makes them helpful to others. In fact, some researchers are focused only or primarily on the metadata itself. Here, again, it may be the case that something is better than nothing. Many researchers, however, will know the pain of finding a useful image without enough information on where it is from, or of shelfmarks being off by just one space or character, such that useful comparisons are made more difficult.
There is no easy answer to this question. It depends in part upon the availability, in the first place, of certain information about items; if an institution has not fully catalogued a work then a researcher can hardly be expected to provide certain types of information. It also depends on whether images are made available online and where; Flickr and Wikimedia provide different options for fields than a self-made database, for instance. 
One of the most important things that an institution can do is provide clear and easy to find information about its own material and to show researchers how and where to use it. During the Bodleian Libraries’ DIY Digitization experiment, those posting on Flickr were keen to know exactly how they should reference items and wanted guidance from the Libraries themselves. It may not be obvious to a researcher who is unfamiliar with an institution’s shelving systems that, for example, MS Bodley 230 is not the same as Bodley 230, or that full stops go only in particular places in a shelfmark, or what a uniform title is. If that information is useful, researchers should be told; providing information on how to cite an item is useful for more than just digitization purposes. A cheat sheet of citation formats and top recommendations on an institution’s website and in their reading room is a great start; The National Archives provides a good example. If an institution is able to provide a “cite this” button directly from their catalogue, even better.
Managing DIY images
Allowing researchers to take photographs in the reading room or within the collections is a good step in the right direction; setting out a well-considered policy is even better. The ability to allow DIY photographers options for sharing their images openly is better still. One of the most difficult hurdles for institutions, however, is actually making use of the images themselves and finding ways to link them to resource discovery tools. Even a few years of busy reading room photography can generate tens of thousands of images, if not more. Most institutions are still getting their heads around the best way to manage their own digitized images—let alone someone else’s—but there are practical steps to consider. So many images, taken at little or no expense to the library or institution, can constitute a valuable asset.
Firstly, implementing guidance such as the above on how to label/title images and what sort of metadata to use can help immensely. Whether it is a matter of improving search and discovery or of considering some sort of bulk use later, structured data is a library’s friend. An institution cannot implement quality control over every DIY image but it can do its best to give researchers the tools to do so themselves.
Secondly, a library with the resources to do so should consider whether there are ways provide cross links to and from these images and under what circumstances they merit being added. Is it possible to provide a standardized and persistent link for researchers to include with each image? If so, should it be to the catalogue record or something else? Alternatively, is there merit to providing links out to repositories of researchers’ images, or using them individually in various ways? Bodleian Libraries researchers, for example, have now compiled a large pool of medieval manuscript images on Flickr; it may not be feasible to include these in item records for each item as they number in the hundreds, but could the Libraries link to the collection from somewhere else? It is interesting to note that some researchers feel that commercial databases that do not do this are “more interested in profits than in enabling scholarly results”. What does it mean when libraries do not? We do know that “the gathering of digital data across multiple interfaces creates chaos for the research process”. Even experienced researchers struggle to find things within limited interfaces; spreading them out only makes things harder. It makes sense to try to provide access where appropriate.
It is also worth considering whether libraries can work more directly with researchers on discrete projects to improve their own image content and metadata. If a researcher is spending substantial time on a collection which the library has not imaged or not fully catalogued, there may be a case for sharing images and working with the researcher to collate information. It is true that librarians, archivists and other collection managers have expertise in cataloguing. That does not mean that others do not have something to offer; indeed, they often have more knowledge of the collections themselves. Some institutions are beginning to capitalize on this in large-scale projects, such as the Library of Congress’s Flickr Commons transcription project or the Smithsonian’s volunteer database. As the Smithsonian’s Stromberg said, this means “letting people share in our research” which that means “that fundamentally, this is going to change the way our Institution works”.
There is no “one size fits all” policy for a cultural institution considering DIY photography and image use; one library may decide that the benefits of being as open as possible outweigh any loss of revenue or risks, while another may not be able to accommodate usage in the same way. DIY and other online image use has the potential to provide immense benefit to both researchers and the institution itself. It is important that institutions consider their resources and the factors that may influence image use. Above all, they must discuss the issue internally and weigh the pros and cons before developing a policy that works for their staff and researchers.
Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 25 F.Supp.2d, 421 (S.D.N.Y. 1998); available at http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/martin/art_law/bridgeman1.pdf [last accessed 24/07/2016].
British Library, ‘Copyright and Your Use of the British Library Website’; available at http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/terms/copyright/ [accessed 12/07/2016].
‘Consistent, Correct, Shelfmarks | Bodleian Special Collections’, Flickr; available at https://www.flickr.com/groups/bodspecialcollections/discuss/72157655371128996/ [last accessed 20/07/2016].
Copyright Licensing Agency, ‘Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA): View License Support Material’; available at http://www.cla.co.uk/customer_info/licence_support_material [last accessed 21/07/2016].
DeRidder, Jody, and Kathryn Matheny, ‘What Do Researchers Need? Feedback on Use of Online Primary Source Materials’, D-Lib Magazine, 20.7/8 (July/August 2014); available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1045/july2014-deridder [last accessed 25/07/2016].
Duffy, Christina, ‘What You Should Know about Self-Service Photography’, British Library Collection Care Blog (19 January 2015); available at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/collectioncare/2015/01/what-you-should-know-about-self-service-photography.html [accessed 25/07/2016].
Green, Daryl, ‘Learning to Let Go: Ownership, Rights, Fees and Permissions of Readers’ Photographs’, DIY Digitization: The Informal Uses of Digital Photography in Curating and Researching Special Collections, eds. Daniel Wakelin, Judith Siefring, and Christine Madsen, 2016.
Jones, Jonathan, ‘The British Library Is Still One Flickr Away from Making All Art Free’, The Guardian (16 December 2013); available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/dec/16/british-library-flickr-art-free-masterpieces [last accessed 20/07/2016].
Kremerskothen, Kay, ‘Welcome the British Library to The Commons!’, Flickr Blog; available at http://blog.flickr.net/en/2013/12/16/welcome-the-british-library-to-the-commons/ [last accessed 20/07/2016].
Noel, William, ‘The wide open future of the art museum: Q&A with William Noel’, TED Blog (29 May 2012); available at http://blog.ted.com/the-wide-open-future-of-the-art-museum-qa-with-william-noel/ [last accessed 12/07/2016].
O’Steen, Ben, ‘A Million First Steps’, British Library Digital Scholarship Blog; available at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2013/12/a-million-first-steps.html [last accessed 20/07/2016].
Petri, Grischka, ‘The Public Domain vs. the Museum: The Limits of Copyright and Reproductions of Two-Dimensional Works of Art’, Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, 12.1 (2014), art. 8; available at http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/jcms.1021217 [last accessed 24/07/2016].
Rundle, David, ‘Virtual Manuscripts and the Real World (part II)’, Bonæ Litteræ: Occasional Writing from David Rundle, Renaissance Scholar; available at https://bonaelitterae.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/virtual-manuscripts-real-world-part-ii/ [last accessed 11/07/2016].
Siegal, Nina, ‘Museums Mull Public Use of Online Art Images’, The New York Times (28 May 2013); available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/arts/design/museums-mull-public-use-of-online-art-images.html [last accessed 24/072016].
Smith, Abby, Report: Why Digitize? (Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, February 1999); available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/reports/pub80-smith/pub80.html [last accessed 25/07/2016].
Stromberg, Joseph, ‘What Digitization Will Do for the Future of Museums’, Smithsonian Magazine (29 August 2013); available at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/what-digitization-will-do-for-the-future-of-museums-2454655/ [accessed 21/07/2016].
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UK Intellectual Property Office, ‘Exceptions to Copyright – Detailed Guidance – GOV.UK’ (2014); available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright [last accessed 24/072016].
 It should be stated that, although the author is based in one institution, this chapter should not be taken as the opinion of that institution.
 David Rundle, ‘Virtual Manuscripts and the Real World (part II)’, Bonæ Litteræ: Occasional Writing from David Rundle, Renaissance Scholar; available at https://bonaelitterae.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/virtual-manuscripts-real-world-part-ii/ [last accessed 11/07/2016].
 Rundle, ‘Virtual Manuscripts’.
 In the UK this is relatively easily done via the CLA’s guidance for libraries: Copyright Licensing Agency, ‘Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA): View License Support Material’; available at http://www.cla.co.uk/customer_info/licence_support_material [last accessed 21/07/2016].
 Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 25 F.Supp.2d, 421 (S.D.N.Y. 1998); available at http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/martin/art_law/bridgeman1.pdf [last accessed 24/07/2016].
 Grischka Petri, ‘The Public Domain vs. the Museum: The Limits of Copyright and Reproductions of Two-Dimensional Works of Art’, Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, 12.1 (2014), art. 8; available at http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/jcms.1021217 [last accessed 24/07/2016].
 UK Intellectual Property Office, ‘Exceptions to Copyright – Detailed Guidance – GOV.UK’ (2014); available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright [last accessed 24/072016].
 Kay Kremerskothen, ‘Welcome the British Library to The Commons!’, Flickr Blog; available at http://blog.flickr.net/en/2013/12/16/welcome-the-british-library-to-the-commons/ [last accessed 20/07/2016].
 Ben O’Steen, ‘A Million First Steps’, British Library Digital Scholarship Blog; available at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-scholarship/2013/12/a-million-first-steps.html [last accessed 20/07/2016].
 Nina Siegal, ‘Museums Mull Public Use of Online Art Images’, The New York Times (28 May 2013); available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/arts/design/museums-mull-public-use-of-online-art-images.html [last accessed 24/072016].
 Jonathan Jones, ‘The British Library Is Still One Flickr Away from Making All Art Free’, The Guardian (16 December 2013); available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/dec/16/british-library-flickr-art-free-masterpieces [last accessed 20/07/2016].
 The British Library provides a good example of gentle wording: British Library, ‘Copyright and Your Use of the British Library Website’; available at http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/terms/copyright/ [accessed 12/07/2016].
 Abby Smith, Report: Why Digitize? (Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, February 1999); available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/reports/pub80-smith/pub80.html [last accessed 25/07/2016].
 Siegal, ‘Museums Mull Public Use’.
 Joseph Stromberg, ‘What Digitization Will Do for the Future of Museums’, Smithsonian Magazine (29 August 2013); available at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/what-digitization-will-do-for-the-future-of-museums-2454655/ [accessed 21/07/2016].
 Available at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/medieval/browse.htm [last accessed 29/07/2016]; available at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/free-online-records-digital-microfilm [last accessed 29 July 2016].
 William Noel, ‘The wide open future of the art museum: Q&A with William Noel’, TED Blog (29 May 2012); available at http://blog.ted.com/the-wide-open-future-of-the-art-museum-qa-with-william-noel/ [last accessed 12/07/2016].
 Daryl Green, ‘Learning to Let Go: Ownership, Rights, Fees and Permissions of Readers’ Photographs’, DIY Digitization: The Informal Uses of Digital Photography in Curating and Researching Special Collections, eds. Daniel Wakelin, Judith Siefring, and Christine Madsen, 2016.
 Christina Duffy, ‘What You Should Know about Self-Service Photography’, British Library Collection Care Blog (19 January 2015); available at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/collectioncare/2015/01/what-you-should-know-about-self-service-photography.html [accessed 25/07/2016].
 Jody DeRidder, and Kathryn Matheny, ‘What Do Researchers Need? Feedback on Use of Online Primary Source Materials’, D-Lib Magazine, 20.7/8 (July/August 2014); available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1045/july2014-deridder [last accessed 25/07/2016].
 Available at https://help.yahoo.com/kb/flickr/upload-photos-videos-flickr-sln15623.html and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:Information [last accessed 29/07/2016].
 ‘Consistent, Correct, Shelfmarks | Bodleian Special Collections’, Flickr; available at https://www.flickr.com/groups/bodspecialcollections/discuss/72157655371128996/ [last accessed 20/07/2016].
 The National Archives, ‘Citing Documents in the National Archives’, The National Archives; available at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/citing-documents-national-archives/ [accessed 25/072016].
 Available at https://www.flickr.com/groups/bodspecialcollections [last accessed 29/07/2016].
 Smith, Why Digitize?
 DeRidder, and Matheny, ‘What Do Researchers Need?”.
 Available at https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/flickr_pilot.html and https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/collections/72157601355524315 [last accessed 29/07/2016]; available at https://transcription.si.edu [last accessed 29/07/2016].
 Stromberg, ‘What Digitization Will Do’.