How to Research Visual Sources (2):How visual materials are described and used

Barber, Sarah (2021) How to Research Visual Sources (2):How visual materials are described and used. Research Methods Primary Sources.

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If pictures can paint a thousand words, why do many dismiss them quickly? Our human ancestors, Homo sapiens, are defined as those possessed of a worldview, describing their environment by creating pictures which they shared with their community. But while creating pictures defines us as humans, history has been distinguished from pre-history by the use of the written word. A key measure of human progress and of civilisation became literacy and the creation of written textual evidence. Visual sources were relegated to lesser than the written word; thought childlike, with ‘mere’ illustrations used to break up a text and divert the eye. On the contrary, the creation of visual images is a huge field of human expression and once deciphered, explains and illuminates human societies, past and present. The creation, consumption and purpose of images differs across the world and so can tell us about the specific culture in which they were created. How was an image constructed? What is the relationship between creating an image, viewing an image and understanding any ‘message’ within an image? How do we determine ‘the truth’ of our interpretation of an image and how can we use the visual sources created in the past to write history? This guide identifies the key cultural differences among artistic expressions around the world and then, using primarily ‘Western’ images as its guide, explores the terminology, tools and approaches students can employ to open up the world of visual sources.

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Research Methods Primary Sources
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25 Nov 2021 11:45
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 04:31