Photographing Dawsholm Park

Last week in our digital curation module we were considering selection and appraisal of materials according to the value of their data. As a take-home task we were asked to take a selection of photographs of scenes around Glasgow. I ended up getting snap-happy at my local park and took around twelve which I have narrowed down to the three below.

I have been asked to determine the value of the resulting photos, explaining why I chose the subject in general and specifically these three photographs to showcase.

In terms of subject I chose Dawsholm Park because it is one of the lesser known parks of Glasgow and yet is an important community recreational ground for Anniesland, Kelvindale, Summerston and Maryhill. The park also has its own history – it was part of the estate of Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth until it was purchased by the Glasgow Corporation in 1922. Part of the park has industrial heritage as it was made from levelled “bings” (piles of waste shale). The park is 33 hectares / 88 acres in size and unlike many of Glasgow’s other parks is little managed (beyond keeping the main paths clear and removing any dangerous or unwanted trees and plants). Most of the park consists of woodland but there is also grassland and riverside. The fact that the park is left relatively wild means it has become a haven for wildlife – being a firm favourite with birdwatchers including myself. Indeed, the park was recently declared a Local Nature Reserve. Many of the other, more famous parks, such as the Kelvingrove are exceptionally well documented from a photographic standpoint but there seem to be few pictures of Dawsholm (on the internet at least) so I chose to do my bit.

Photo 1:

In the bottom left of this photograph you will see a wooden structure, this is in fact a “boat inspired” picnic bench designed by an artist. The bench is a landmark of sorts within the park and one that often people will be sat at. The photograph captures how the bench works with its wider surroundings and how it is approached from the path. It tells something about human interaction with the park – this is a park people don’t just pass through but take a rest. The value of this photograph is that it captures a “monument” in its context which for many people is integral to their experience of the park. Furthermore, you could say that any of the photographs I took featuring foliage could have scientific value – in the future people may wish to compare what species of plant grew then, that don’t now or vice versa, perhaps in order to make judgements about climate change etc.

Photo 3:

This shows the view across the city from the western edge of the park. It has value because it shows several historically and geographically important buildings at a stage in their life. In the centre of the photograph you can see Anniesland railway station (first opened 1874), to its left you can see the back of the white art-decor Ascot Cinema (now converted into flats) as well as Gartnavel Hospital (the big block ) to the right and above the station. It also acts as an architectural record – you can see the old tenement blocks in the bottom left besides their more modern counterparts. It could be used as evidence of their once existence should any of the buildings in the photograph be demolished. Furthermore, like the photograph discussed above, I also think it captures an intrinsic part of the experience of the park. The view across the city is a constant, unavoidable feature of the western side of the park and is one that many people enjoy.

Photograph 2:

I have included this one (even though it is one of the poorest quality of the ones I took) because it poses an interesting problem… The bird in the tree is a type of hunting bird, a Buzzard, which are regularly seen and heard in the park and surrounding area. Obviously, from a scientific standpoint it is good to have evidence of the birds in the area – for instance, some ornithologists would be able to use photographs to identify whether it was the same bird in each photograph and by this process deduce just how many there were in the area. But I have realised there is a problem with this picture because how do you prove that it was definitely taken at Dawsholm Park? It could just be any old tree elsewhere? The bench and the angle of the viewpoint mean the other two photographs can be situated to a degree but this one cannot.

Final thoughts:

I have realised that if the aim is to “capture” and preserve the memory/meaningfulness of Dawsholm Park – just three photographs isn’t enough. One photograph has limited value but a collection would have more. You would need a whole range of photos which when put alongside each other recreate a sense of the park’s character, experience and meaning. As to the last, since the subject is a predominantly natural one you might also need to collect information alongside this (people’s stories, memories etc.).

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