What’s left when the show is over?
The photographic archives of the Basel Kunsthalle

Founded in 1872, the Basel Kunsthalle is home to a vast photographic archive documenting over a hundred years of exhibitions. For many years the conservation and digitisation of this major historical source were not a priority for this institution now dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art. It was only in 2011 that a programme of conservation, restoration, digitisation and public outreach was launched in association with the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Basel, thus contributing to a new awareness of the collection’s value. This heritage project has been complemented by the Archives on the Move initiative, which aims at creating a platform for exploration, visualisation and dissemination of the digital reproductions via today’s online communications strategies. In autumn 2017 Exposed Exhibitions. Fotoarchiv der Kunsthalle Basel invited artists to engage with the archive, thus bringing the images into the actual exhibition space and endowing them with a new public presence.

Atelier Eidenbenz, vue des Nymphéas (1914-1926) de Claude Monet dans l’exposition Impressionisten,
Kunsthalle de Bâle, 3 septembre au 20 novembre 1949, négatif en noir et blanc, 17,7 x 23,7 cm. © Fotoarchiv Kunsthalle Basel/Basler Kunstverein, Bâle.

Sören Schmeling holds degrees in art history, German literature and management from the universities of Freiburg im Breisgau and Basel, and is director of the photographic archive at the Basel Kunsthalle. In 2011 he was the driving force behind the reorganisation, conservation, digitisation and publication of the photographic archive collection. He also curated Exposed Exhibitions. Fotoarchiv der Kunsthalle Basel.

Sonja Gasser holds a degree in art history from the University of Bern. She collaborates with the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Basel and is the founder-director of the Archives on the Move project. She is also the academic advisor to the prints and mdrawings department at the Zurich Kunsthaus and is preparing a thesis at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich on innovative use of data from digitised art collections.

Citation: Sören Schmeling, Sonja Gasser, « What’s left when the show is over?Les archives photographiques de la Kunsthalle de Bâle », Transbordeur. Photographie histoire société, no. 2, 2018, pp. 138-147.

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