Behind the scenes Collections Long read Series

ICP placements with the Imaging team – Part 2 – How the students are getting on

In Part 2 of our ICP placements series, MA students Kai and Yunshuang reflect on their experience so far.

Rylands Imaging ICP placement students, Kai and Yunshuang, in the photography studio.
Photo by Jamie Robinson.

Rylands ICP placement students, Kai and Yunshuang, are currently being trained in cultural heritage digitisation by the Imaging team and have been working on a specialist digitisation project to digitise 35mm slides from the uncatalogued Li Yuan-chia Collection. A full post on the placements can be read here. Kai and Yunshuang have collaborated on a behind the scenes blog post to document and reflect on their experience so far:

“To undertake a project such as this one has been nothing short of a privilege. Collaborating with the John Rylands Library on this digitisation process has been a fascinating insight in to both the world of Li Yuan-chia (LYC) as well as the everyday work of the Rylands.  

The Rylands main staircase. Photo by Yunshuang Xu.

Our first day consisted of a behind the scenes tour of the Library. This magnificent building with its striking architecture, elegant decorations, delicate carvings and the myriad of other fascinating details set us up for what would be an exciting four months. Our deep-dive in to the Rylands collection gave us our first introduction to LYC as well as providing us with a clear sense of the vast knowledge stored underneath the building. 

The Imaging department regularly undertakes projects such as the one we were about to embark upon. This work can include photographing large maps as well as fascinating images of one of the worlds first computers. However, it has been special to handle and digitally preserve the experimental photography of LYC.  

Batches of 35mm slides from the LYC Collection.
Photo by Jamie Robinson / Courtesy of the Li Yuan-chia Foundation.

Handling the 35mm slides he took and being in charge of their digitisation has brought us closer to the artist and his home in Cumbria. Looking at the images on the film, often depicting the natural scenery of his home, as well as a glimpse of the man himself, they are an intimate portrait of his home as well as his imagination.  

A key aspect of our work has been getting to grips with basic photography terms and ideas. With this being the first time that either of us has encountered equipment such as that used by the imaging department, this became a fundamentally important part of our placement. This, alongside discussions surrounding the applications and importance of metadata, has been the cornerstone of our learning experience at the Library. 

It brings us joy and satisfaction to think that this project will allow others to enjoy this art. Digitisation projects have the scope to broaden access to art and education to people across the world. As a man who spent much of his life in a state of upheaval, LYC is an artist whose legacy deserves to be conserved. His radical spirit is expressed in his art and especially in the images we have had the pleasure of working with. We have played a small yet very important and exciting role in bringing the vast Rylands collection to the digital world where physical space ceases to be a barrier to education and enjoyment.” 

Kai and Yunshuang will continue to reflect on their ICP placement through a series of blog posts.  

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