Behind the scenes Collections Long read Series

ICP placements with the Imaging team – Part 3 – Looking at the images

In Part 3 of our ICP placements series, MA students Kai and Yunshuang talk about some of the Li Yuan-chia images they have digitised from 35mm slides.

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. In a series of posts so far, we have introduced this exciting project and Kai and Yunshuang have taken us behind the scenes and reflected on their learning experience. In this post they talk about some of the Li Yuan-chia (LYC) images they have digitised:

“Our experience with the John Rylands Library has continued to be a fulfilling and exciting one. We have continued our work digitising LYC’s 35mm slides and have come across some fantastic images in the process.  

What we have found with LYC’s photography is that he captures the beauty of the natural surroundings of his gallery at Banks on Hadrian’s Wall, while simultaneously manipulating the environment to create an often-absurd image. The image below is an example of LYC’s experimental technique. 

Uncatalogued 35mm slide by Li Yuan-chia. Courtesy of the Li Yuan-chia Foundation.

Just as often as they are absurd, they also depict simple and natural beauty. The images below are close-ups of trees and leaves. From these images we get a real insight into both the home of LYC as well as his artistic mind. 

Uncatalogued 35mm slide by Li Yuan-chia. Courtesy of the Li Yuan-chia Foundation. 
Uncatalogued 35mm slide by Li Yuan-chia. Courtesy of the Li Yuan-chia Foundation. 

It was our task to edit these images using computer software designed to process and store collections of photographs. It has been interesting to be in charge of such a task and it has raised questions as to the role of the editor or the institution when it comes to the preservation and display of art.

For example, many of these images were photo-negatives which meant that we had to edit the photographs to a standard that we deemed acceptable. Without the ability to get assurances from the artist that we have correctly represented the image, it is up to the Rylands Imaging team to make this judgement. Us and our supervisor must all be happy with the editing of an image before we move on to the next. 

We have not spent our time solely in the studio. On April 11th, the Rylands team held an ICP Symposium. Staff and students involved in the placement programme were invited to share their projects and network.

Curators and managers discussed how they gradually came to their artistic careers and what they are now responsible for in their teams at the Rylands. Almost everyone mentioned the versatility of a career in cultural heritage and encouraged young people to challenge more, gain more experience and explore the boundaries of their abilities before finally deciding on the right direction for themselves. This may be a good career lesson for us – to keep trying and not be afraid of trials and mistakes.

There were also talks about what the future holds for the library and how teamwork is the key to moving forward. We are a small team on the Imaging ICP placement and these words are a reminder of how we should work together to accomplish our tasks in a more efficient and high-quality way. Each person is indispensable and each department is responsible for important tasks. Perhaps it is because of these team relationships that the Rylands family has grown and achieved what it has today.” 

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