Research Objectives 

The principal aim of the SURA project 

is to make the highly valuable historical glass plate collection of the RMAH available to the international scientific community as well as to the general public, and to valorise its importance. 

Four clearly defined research objectives are envisaged.

Detailed and high quality metadata

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This objective aims at a critical revision of the available data of each individual photo while at the same time augmenting them with as much additional detailed information as possible, both with regard to the content of the photo as to its photographic framework (photographer, date). Special attention will also be given to information that places these photos in a broader context. For this purpose, bibliographical references to key publications with regard to the depicted subject matter will be recorded as well as references to relevant sources from the RMAH’s archives such as Capart’s personal notebooks, diaries, letters, etc. These references will be made available as cross-links with the RMAH’s online library and archival catalogue, including access to electronic versions of publications and archival material when possible. Cross-links to objects in the RMAH’s online museum catalogue (MuseumPlus-RIA/Carmentis) will also be integrated as well as to online catalogues of other museums when applicable. Finally, technical information (dimensions, type of photo, state of preservation) will also be added and will serve as a base for the development of a preservation plan for long term conservation.

Online database

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The entire collection of glass plates is already digitised by the Royal Observatory of Belgium digitisation facility. Together with their respective metadata, the digital images will be catalogued in the RMAH’s central collections management system (MuseumPlus-RIA/Carmentis). 

Preservation and collection care

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In order to preserve this collection for future generations, the physical housing of the glass plates will be addressed as well. Due to the neglect in the previous decades and its current housing conditions, some glass plates are already starting to show traces of chemical and biological degradation. Based on the technical metadata of the glass plate proper, a long term preservation plan will be developed, including the repacking in acid-free cases and individual envelopes, and optimising the protective environment in which these glass plates are stored.

Scientific exploitation and collaborative research

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The scientific potential of this collection, not only for the RMAH but also for other national and international research institutes, will be mined. Specifically for the RMAH, the focus will first and foremost be on images that relate to the objects of the RMAH’s collection that provenance from the different sites investigated by Capart and his collaborators. The original find contexts of these objects as described in the registration cards and the original field documentation will be confronted with the available photos. The SURA-project will also actively search for new collaborative research opportunities, not only with other similar online research platforms and databases in order to mutually expand their scientific potential, but also with individual researchers, research consortia or institutions that could have a potential interest in the content of these glass plate negatives.

About the SURA project