Penelope Dixon and Karen Gaines have launched a nonprofit organization, the Photography Collections Preservation Project (PCPP), dedicated to the preservation of important mid- and late-20th-century photography for future generations. The organization has an urgent task: to make sure that important but increasingly vulnerable photographic archives are placed with the best, most appropriate U.S. institutions, and made easily available to scholars, students, the general public and future generations.
"Photographers' archives—their work and the contextual material relating to it—are priceless repositories of historical memory, critical for scholars, students, and the general public," said Dixon. "From the earliest days of photography, pictures have been invaluable primary sources for an understanding of everyday life and great historical events, often the only primary sources that survive."
The number of important 20th-century collections that are still unorganized, whether still in their creators' hands or their heirs', is rapidly increasing. Fortunately, so is awareness of the irreplaceable nature of these cultural, historical, and educational assets. PCPP is dedicated to identifying the most significant work that could become subject to degradation or loss, then finding an institutional home whose mission and resources meet the nature of the work. It will assist in preparing archives for accession when necessary, as well as providing likely institutions with assessments of accession conditions and contingencies for each archive—a neutral party that serves only the interest of the photographs' wellbeing and ready, long-term access to them.
In that endeavor, the organization will fill a vital need, creating a forum and clearinghouse of information for the work, its creators, and its current and future custodians. "PCPP will bring together all parties," said Gaines, PCPP's executive director. "This will include the photographers, their heirs, curators and institutions looking to expand their collections, experts in fine-art photography and photojournalism, top archivists, collectors, experts in collection management, the greater artistic community, and anyone else interested in preserving our photographic heritage for posterity."