Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Access to e-resources – troubleshooting guide for Xmas

With any luck, you are now ensconced in the warm hearth of home, surrounded by mince pies, the Xmas edition of the Radio Times, and everything you need for a merry festive break.  And you are not in the slightest way sorry that the university libraries are closed between midday on the 23rd December to 9am on the 3rd January!

If you do find yourself straying to the computer in order to finesse your essay, dissertation proposal, PhD theses, article, book chapter or module outline, you may find the following tips useful for overcoming problems accessing e-journals, e-books, and the like.


1.    Try another browser.  This is good advice for many issues, including downloading PDFs from Blackboard.  There is a known problem with the latest version of Safari, and if you are particularly keen on Safari, you can download a patch to resolve it (see  Alternatively, many users have suggested that Google Chrome is a good option.

2.    Get a PC!  (only kidding).  But if you do have a Mac and would like to access e-books, makes sure you have Adobe Reader installed (  The default viewer on Macs (Preview) is not compatible with our main e-book supplier, and will tend to display a page of nonsense code.  Open the files with Adobe Reader instead, or better still change your default PDF viewer to Adobe Reader.  To do this, CTRL click on any PDF document in the Finder window, click ‘Get info.’ then choose Adobe Reader in the “open with” section and click on the ‘Change All’ button.

3.    Viewing e-books often works by displaying the book one page at a time, embedding PDFs in a browser window.  If the PDF is not opening within the browser, open Adobe Reader and go to Adobe>Preferences>Internet and make sure that “display PDF in browser using” is checked.


1.    As with e-books, the simple advice to try another browser can resolve a number of issues relating to accessing e-journals (e.g. following links from Library Search to the full-text).

2.    You will need to be signed in to access an e-journal.  Once you get to a particular platform, look to see whether it has recognised where you are from (there will normally be a message to say that the resource has been brought to you by ‘University of Westminster Library’ ).  If that is not displayed, and you cannot access the content, look for a sign-in link at the top right hand corner of the screen.  It is normally described as one of the following:

UK Federation login
Institutional login
Shibboleth login.

Once you click this, you will normally be asked to select your institution.

3.    Check to see whether the library subscribes to the content you are trying to get.  You can check what e-holdings we should have for any journal by signing in to Library Search and clicking on E-journals.  This will also provide you with a link to the journal.

Library Search

1.    When using Library Search ‘articles & more’ do not rely on the ‘quick search.’  This is not a complete search of the resources available to you.  Choosing a specific subject scope (e.g. Art & Design, or Arts & Humanities) or searching a particular databases (e.g. Film Indexes Online for film students) can often provide better results.

Alternative sources

1.    Google Books ( often provides extensive previews of books.  You may find that several pages are missing, but this is still better than nothing.  Search for, “The Contest of meaning: critical histories of photography” for example.

2.    Other works may be provided on an author’s own website, and can be identified using Google.  Putting the title of a work in quotation marks can sometimes help – try "Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men” as an example.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Investigating archives - links

I am talking today to the Photojournalism students about archives, which gives me a chance to reflect on the course I attended earlier in the year.  I wonder what they will think of it...

I am collating all the relevant links in the post below.

Exhibition [at Tate Modern]

Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan [video]

Course details

Investigating the Archive; Photographic Collections of London [Birkbeck/Photographers’ gallery]

Individual archives mentioned [Picture Post Historical Archive trial site]

Other archives

London Metropolitan Archives

Internet Archive

Digital Book Index [Photography Collections] [Photography periodicals]

Online hubs


Bacon, J. (2007). Archive, archive, archive!  Circa Art Magazine, no. 119, p. 50-59

Foster, J. & Sheppard, J. (2002) British archives: a guide to archive resources in the United Kingdom, 4th ed. Hampshire: Palgrave. [available in Archive Services at Regent]

McDonald, S. (2004). HultonArchive – History In Pictures. Accessed from:

Mereweather, C. (2006) (ed.). The archive [documents in contemporary art]. London: Whitechapel.

Phillips, C. (1982). The judgement seat of photography. October, 22: 27-63. [online]. Accessed from: JSTOR < >. [Accessed 29 March 2011].

Picture Post Historical Archive [online] [product description]. Available from: [Accessed 05/05/2011].

Phillips, S. S. (2003). ‘A history of evidence’ in Sultan, L. & Mandel, M. (2003). Evidence. New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers.

Sekula, A. (2002). ‘Reading an archive; photography between labour and capital’ (pp. 443-452 in Wells, L. (ed. ) (2002). The photography reader. Routledge.

Sekula, AL. (1986).  The body and the archiveOctober, vol. 39, p. 3-64.

Zylinska, Joanna(2010) 'On Bad Archives, Unruly Snappers and Liquid Photographs', Photographies, 3:2, 139 — 153 [Special Issue: Photography, Archive and Memory]

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Norfolk's 'slow photography' draws on archive

Simon Norfolk talks about his current exhibition at Tate, 'Burke + Norfolk - Photographs from the War in Afghanistan,' on the BBC World Service here.

The exhibition draws on the archive of the nineteenth-century Irish photographer, John Burke, linking the late 19th century anglo/afghan war with the current conflict. For Norfolk this shows the "circularity of imperial history". He talks in this interview about how the photographic process of the time accentuated the racial difference of the Afghans and Europeans.

There are several examples of Norfolk's books in the library collection at Harrow; and the most recent, 'Burke + Norfolk,' is on order.

The exhibition continues at Tate Modern to the 10th July.

Additional resources

Tate Channel: Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan [17 minute video] [introduction, photographs, conversation]

Haven't we been here before? Art and design The Guardian [Ian Jack]

Afghanistan: There is a small corner that is forever England Mail Online [Simon Norfolk]

Monday, 7 February 2011

Picture libraries - AP and Magnum

As part of the archives course I am attending, I was invited recently to the photo library of Associated Press. This is situated in an old gin factory in Camden Town. AP 'went digital' in 1995, but the negatives (or ‘negs’) before this date, are stored in a cold room. They sit alongside a massive card index, a small section of which you can see in the picture. There is something you get from flicking through these drawers that is not replicated in a computerised system – a sense of the human behind the cataloguing.

You can search the AP Images database to see the sort of material that is currently uploaded, as well as selected pictures from the archive (e.g. the photographs of AP photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt).

The photographers, though, are not the focus of the agency, unlike at Magnum – which is a cooperative, owned by the photographers. The current exhibition, The Magnum Markat the Magnum Print Room, shows the photographic print as collectors' items.

Some of the prints are displayed in hinged frames, so that you can see the ‘magnum mark’ on the back – and in the examples here, a succession of marks – part of the provenance, which confers value (or a specific sort of value) on the print. The care taken in the darkroom is evident in the ‘print maps’ – here shown through the work of Magnum printer, Pablo Inirio.

Two very different visions of the photographer are presented at AP and Magnum respectively: the photographer as hack and the photographer as auteur. 

Related links

AP Images

Corbis Corp

Getty Images

'Getty Images, Inc' n.d., Datamonitor/Life Science Analytics Company Profiles, EBSCOhost, viewed 4 February 2011


Friday, 4 February 2011

Carrot or potato – but which is better?

The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couchgrass, or the weed.
Deleuze and Guattari (1987 [1980])
On the 22nd January, Sas Mays – Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Critical Theory – led a seminar on critical approaches to the Archive. This was based at the Photographers’ Gallery offices and part of the Investigating the Archive course I am attending.

The carrot, an umbelliferous plant, with a hierarchical root system (with a primary root, from which secondary roots form, which in turn branch to form tertiary roots) was contrasted to the tuberous potato, in order to explore metaphors for seeing the world, or of organising knowledge, or of organising the Archive. In so doing, we were exploring the ideas expressed by Deleuze and Guattari in their stream-of-consciousness-like work A thousand plateaus.

The taproot, like the carrot – but more often the tree – is typically used as a metaphor for knowledge – for example by the thirteenth century writer, Ramon Llul [Arbor_scientiae]. In some senses, it suggests a closed form of thinking, since it privileges structure and hierarchy, which are implicit within the Archive. Rhizomatic (potato-like) thought, in contrast, “stresses multiplicity, complexity, multi-dimensionality and chaos” (Rhizome, 2004).

In Foucault’s analysis, if knowledge is power, then the organisation of knowledge is the organisation of power; and the Archive stands in symbolic relationship to existing power structures – reflecting, representing, and perpetuating them. Photography, too, is implicated. The anthropometric work of Alphonse Bertillon (e.g. tableau synoptique des traits physonomiques) can be cited in this context and so too can Jacob Riis, but there are many other examples.

But, if these readings of the Archive don’t seem to fit with the anti-authoritarian urgency of the Weiner Library (for example), it is perhaps well to remember that while philosophers always reflect on reality, reality does not always reflect on philosophers. Deleuze and Guattari are an entertaining read because they flirt with the non-linear, and pose with the chaotic, but are ultimately neither; their reasoning against reason is reflexive.

Further reading

Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, FĂ©lix (1987 [1980]) ‘Introduction: Rhizome’, in A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, trans. Massumi, Brian. University of Minnesota Press.

Rhizome (2004), in The Sage Dictionary of Cultural Studies, Sage UK, London, United Kingdom, viewed 30 January 2011, from

Monday, 24 January 2011

Investigating archives - The Wiener Library

“If we don’t save our history, it will perish” say the Wiener Library [Institute of Contemporary History] on their website.

The library was started by Alfred Wiener, who having fled Nazi Germany in 1933 set up the Jewish Central Information Office in Amsterdam; then fleeing Amsterdam in 1939, he moved the institution to Manchester Square in London. His purpose: to expose the true nature of Nazism to the world.

The library continues this work to this day. Its collection includes well over 10,000 images, a small proportion of which have been digitised and can be previewed online; there are also books, pamphlets, eye-witness accounts and other documents.

It has for fifty years remained in a building on Devonshire Street, but its lease has now expired and it will be moving shortly to Russell Square.  It will then be next door to the newly formed Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, with which it will work.

Jonathan Ross embarrassed by poor research

We all use Wikipedia for research, but as this video clip illustrates, you should always verify the information with more authoritative sources.

Further reading

'Evaluating information' in the information skills section of the Library webpages.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

V&A Prints and Drawings Study Room

On Saturday, I went down to the area of London which is apparently now known as 'Albertopolis' - to explore the V&A Prints and Drawings Study Room.

This was part of my 'Investigating the archive' course.

Here again were prints by Julia Margaret Cameron.  Alongside, was work by Fox Talbot, John Watson, Roger Fenton, Eugene Atget and Gustav Le Gray. 

The prints were more carefully looked after here than in the Rothschild archive: we learnt that the V&A use three sizes of archival box - imperial, semi-imperial and royal.

It was more accesssible too: anyone can get access to the Prints Room and ask for these prints to be brought out for their pleasure.

As well as photography pioneers, a whole range of other photographers are represented.  There are also resource boxes with a range of work to illustrate the history of photography. 

You can search the collections online.

Crimp (1993) suggests, "if photography was in invented in 1839, it was only discovered in the 1960s and 1970s."  However, I think the curators at the V&A might disagree: the first exhibition here (the first in any museum) was in 1858; they have a photograph of it.


Crimp, D. (1993).  On the museum's ruins.  Boston: MIT Press.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Photographic collections of London

I’m not a hoarder, nor a collector – not even of books; I don’t have a personal archive: I am not a typical librarian at all in fact.

However, I have become interested in archives of late and have enrolled on a course – Investigating the archive: photographic collections of London.

The first of our visits was to the Rothschild Archive - housed in an impressive building, close by the Bank of England.

It is not particularly accessible – two referees are needed to gain access to the reading rooms - and it is not specifically photographic: the Rothschilds are a banking dynasty, so the archive is as often as not accessed by economic historians.

However, the archive includes a photograph album once owned by Charlotte de Rothschild, which includes prints by Julia Margaret Cameron and has the largest collection of autochromes in the country – over 700 plates taken by Lionel de Rothschild . There are also photographs relating to the running of the company: portraits of staff, and some great pictures of people at work in the gold refinery.

Many archives – personal and business – have photographic materials, including incidentally the archives of The University of Westminster (see their flickr stream).

In some of the reading in preparation of the visit, some rather unflattering conjectures on the nature of collecting were discussed. But, as well as collecting being possibly a “masturbatory pursuit of solitary pleasures,” it is also “one way in which we hope to understand the world around us, and reconcile our places within it.” (Pearce, 1995: 8; 25).

Further reading

Ford, C. (2002) ‘Hannah, Charlotte ...and Julia’ in Rothschild archive review of the year; April 2001 – March 2002. The Rothschild Archive Trust. Available at [accessed 14/01/2011]

Pearce, S. M. (1995). Collecting processes: an investigation into collecting in the European tradition. London: Routledge

'The colours of another world' [pdf] Available at [accessed 14/01/2011]

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Photography festivals - roundup

The Telegraph website has helpfully provided a round-up of international photography festivals.

Further reading

Trenkler, K. International Photography Festivals. European Photography v. 29 no. 84 (Winter 2008/2009) p. 76-7

Monday, 10 January 2011

Old Periodicals Online

An advert in this 1910 The British Journal Photographic Almanac declares the Regent Street Polytechnic - a former incarnation of the University of Westminster - as having, "The first, largest and most successful school of photography in the world."  You will find it here.

This e-copy resides on the Internet Archive

Thanks to Jo Barker for sending me the link to the photography periodicals section of The Digital Book Index.  There are also links to early copies of Photograms of the year (copies of which are also in the library), which are gems! (see here for example). And there are other sections to explore: the Photography Collections page looks particularly interesting.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The "objectness" of art books

According to an article in The Telegraph in November, Steidl have opened a new bookshop in Soho – well not a bookshop, rather a “forum for books.” This is called Q Book but as the website only has a picture of empty shelves, I am not sure whether it has opened yet, so I will need to investigate and report back.

The Telegraph article is well worth a look, as it discusses the recent trend for art books – and specifically photographic art books – to be released in expensive limited editions (see the winner of the Lucie’s for example).

Iwona Blazwick, the director of the Whitechapel Gallery, is quoted as saying:
The pleasure for me is that if you can't afford to buy a work of art, you can afford to buy a book as a work of art. There is an interest in the "objectness" of art books.
As well as Q Book, three other bookshops in London get a mention – Marcus Campbell, Claire de Rouen, and another newly opened one at Somerset House – Rizolli.


Beyfuss, Druisilla (2010). 'Speaking volumes; Limited-edition art and photography books are increasingly treasured as works of art in themselves'. The Daily Telegraph, 13 November, 11, 12, 14. Available from Factiva [Online Database] [Accessed 18/12/2010].

See also

Steidl special editions [PDF]

Related posts

Useful libraries and bookshops in London