What catalogue information can you find in the database, and how reliable is it?

When you have a picture before you in its small form, with summary information (on the screen entitled "Search Results") you can click on "more details...." to obtain the comprehensive "master information"?

Here we list the different categories of catalogue informationon this screen, and suggest how reliable each category is.
1. The reliability of the information in the catalogue varies.
You should begin by assuming that the catalogue is correct - but if you have reason to be sceptical about information given on a particular picture, or group of pictures, you may be right.
A missionary society used pictures for various purposes. In its propaganda pictures were mostly chosen for their assumed impact in Europe. So the interest in accurate documentation (where? when? who?) was patchy and often weak.
2. Many of the pictures may be, to some extent, incorrectly documented. Many indeed have very little documentation at all. We are hoping for significant feeback from users of the web site, offering us additional information or insights on specific pictures or groups of pictures.
3. Where English translations are provided they use the idiomatic ecumenical English of the late 20th century - and not the colonial English of the same age as the original German texts. In particular the English translations avoid one-to-one translations of terms from colonial German which we know are regarded as insulting or discriminating.
4. A web-site like this is not static. We hope for plentiful feedback from people who know more about the pictures or think different thoughts from us in Basel. There is an address for feedback, and para 10 below explains what we will do with information you send us.

Individual fields on the screen "master information".
The "Reference number" is not in itself a historical source - basically all reference numbers have been assigned since 1980. But the reference number does tell you to which entity (album, folder etc) a picture belongs. C-30.85.017 is the 17th picture in the file or entity C-30.55.
The reference numbers also reflect the structure of the collection, however, and if you are working at length with this web site it might be useful to look at the document which describes the whole collection in outline (follow the sequence Welcome>Press Related>Final Report/Project History Overview>Project Narrative - The pictorial collection in the Basel Mission archive).
If you are in a hurry all you need to know are that the single-letter reference numbers (A, B, C, D, E) indicate that a photograph is part of the Basel Mission's "Official Collection", a selection of several thousand photographs built up from about 1900 as a resource for the Mission's publications at home. Almost all photographs whose reference number begins with "Q" belong to a large and highly miscellaneous collection of photographs and other types of image which have arrived in the archive by divers means - often from private hands - but in 1980 were not part of the official Basel Mission collection. These do include some photographs which one should regard as having been part of earlier "official collections" like the photographs in the series QS-30.001 where all the portraits of male missionaries had been collected which were made by the Mission before they travelled abroad for the first time. Note that Qx-32 denotes a negative, Qx-34 an old-fashioned coloured lantern slide. Both categories of image had been part of the "official collection" at some time in the past.

In the top menu bar of the "Master Information" screen you will see "Entity information". Click on this to be given the information we have on the entity (album, folder etc) to which a picture belongs. On the top menu bar of "entity information" you can click on "consult entity", which enables you to page through the entity you have called up. By calling up the entity you can see (a) when approximately in the past an entity was brought together, and (b) what other pictures are closely associated with the one you are studying. So - if the photograph you are studying is part of an album you can "leaf through the album" by calling up this facility.

3. "PART OF"
also helps you to place a picture in the collection as a whole in terms already referred to in (1) above.

which we quote from the photograph or its mount.

4.1 ORIGINAL CAPTION &CAPTION TRANSLATION. Here we quote the main title originally given to the image in its original language, and translate this caption into English.

Stamps record text information not written but stamped or embossed on the photograph or its mount.

For many of the photographs in the so-called "official collection" (see "Reference Numbers ", No. 1 above) a name is listed in an accession register which is, strictly speaking, the name of the person who handed over an image to the Mission's headquarters.
We assume that this is the name of the photographer. In the other parts of the collection the name of the photographer or the photo studio may be given on the mount, or our cataloguing staff may have concluded, from a comparison of different photographs, that an individual photograph may belong to a group of pictures, for some of which a photographer's name is available.
So we expect some interesting surprises when other people study these holdings intensively, put them in new research contexts, and compare them with other contemporary photographic holdings which we do not know.
For your role as user in improving this catalogue see para 10 below!! Who for instance was or were the photographers whose work is put together in album QD-30.024? He or they belong to a generation of photographers after the pioneers who were using cameras in Ghana in the 1860s (QD-30.011 and QD-30.014), and (it seems) before the major Basel Mission photographer at the end of the 19th century, Fritz Ramseyer (QD-30.041, 042, 043 and 044).

It was part of the task of the catalogue staff to define the place where each photograph was taken as closely as possible, using whatever sources were available to them - material in captions, notes (see below) or other annotations, or their own knowledge of places obtained by familiarity with photographs. We are confident that we have ascribed most photographs to the region where they were taken. Experts may raise doubts about the exact places where photographs were taken, however. Again we are hoping for some good feedback on the question of where photographs were taken (see para 10 below).

7. DATING (Date early/date late; acquisition year)
This again is a group of fields in which the catalogue staff were asked to do the best they could on the basis of often inadequate information to define the date when a photograph was taken. Their sources of information were: acquisition date (if given) = the latest possible date. date of publication (if any) = the latest possible date. the years during which a european depicted on the picture, or who could be identified as the photographer, worked in a particular mission field (=date early, date late). networking with other photographs and their documentation. photographic process Again, the information given is fairly reliable as far as it goes. But note that with many images the "date early"/"date late" span is large. So the user of the web site is asked to exercise caution here. Some photographs can be dated with some exactness to a specific period, a specific year, even sometimes a specific day. For others our dating is merely the best guidelines we can offer.

Cataloguing staff were requested to record any proper names in the documents available, but were also given a free hand to identify persons who appear on a photograph without being named, if they appear with their name in another photograph. In this field, however, our main problem is the many, many people, especially from Africa and Asia, who appear in our pictures with no kind of indication as to who they were - other than perhaps as representatives of some social, professional or religious category. This is an aspect of colonial photography we would like to leave behind us, and will be very glad to be include new identifications and more biographical information in our database. See para 10. Note that in this field "*" indicates a child whose christian name we do not know. "*Ernst Schmitt" means "child of Ernst Schmitt".
We have used this field as a way of gathering interesting information on European, Asian and African institutions, listing here, for example, photographs of specific missionary societies and commercial firms - but also of named "secret societies" (regulatory societies) in Cameroon. Our coding has not been comprehensive, however - that would have been too large a burden for the cataloguers. But the search facility for "institutional names" (on the Search Command screen) will give you a good idea of the kinds of institution we have tried to cover, and what the gaps look like.

These are important fields with two specific functions.
(a) we collect here all historical information on photographs which does not come under (4) above.
(b) we also collect here any other information about specific photographs which is generated by peoples' use of them. If you send us feedback on any photograph, it will pass through the hands of our web-site editor, and where appropriate will be put into the Notes field. Information in Notes/Notes Translation always comes with an indication of its origins.
Some of our sources are used over and over again, so are referred to by initials. Others, who come up more rarely, are named in full. We still have to compile the list of the names behind the initials. Until this is available we ask you to email us if you have any specific queries. In our original internal database we used the term "Annotations" to describe certain categories of information on the photographs. We decided not to include Annotations in the database - the substantive information they contain will be included, with time, in other parts of the catalogue. You may, however, find references to Annotations in the Notes fields. If you do, and these are puzzling, please send us an email query, and we will try to send back clarification.

This information needs no commentary - it is basic for anyone using photographs as historical sources.

This field supplements the information on dimensions in 11 by telling you if a photograph you are interested in is in fact a postcards or - if it is much older - exists in visiting card format.

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