Seeing the ring:

a collaborative research project on a Nineteenth Century Photo Album

established in July 2003 by David Zeitlyn

A school group in Staffordshire(?) towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. Enlarging the image in order to try and read the message on the blackboard a ring on the finger of the woman holding the board becomes visible. This is not visible to the naked eye, and is a small, perhaps trivial, may be not, example of what work with digitised images can achieve.
You can see the full image from which this detail has been extracted Photo 9

This project starts with an album of 22 Nineteenth Century Photographs purchased at a car boot sale in Cambridge on 29 June 2003. As a social anthropologist I am interested in ways in which photographs act as repositories of meaning and ways in which their meaning may be changed as information about them is made available. I am not a photo historian nor do I work on Staffordshire history so, inspired by the Open Source software movement, I am going to use the photographs as the kernel of a collaborative research project: any people inspired to contribute are welcome to send in contributions which will be added to the project website. If interest seems to warrant it I may add a discussion list and other collaborative research tools in due course.

To begin with there only the photographs and some basic information about them, culled from the inscriptions and the photographers information on the back of some of the 'cartes de visite'.

A nineteenth century album: 22 photos


People named

Named photographers

Listings of regional photographers are at

Contact David Zeitlyn uk

This work is being made available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

One model for this is the Australian 'Biggest Family Album' project: (thanks to Kevin Meethan for the reference)

Another example of similar collaborative research is Judith Robertson's site: