Framing Openness. The Digital Circulation of Israel's National Photographic Memory

  • Nathalie Casemajor INRS
Keywords: free culture, copyright, photography, memory, Israel, open archives, internet, digital commons


Since 1948, the Government Press Office of Israel has been collecting and producing an extensive archive of photographs representing the birth and development of the Israeli nation state. Digitized and published online, this archive functions as a visual memorial of Israel, an example of what Jan Assman calls “bonding memory”, a form of memory that connects individuals to a political body, and which acts to frame a collective national identity. In 2011, the copyright terms of this archive were changed to encourage the circulation and reuse of images. This decision echoes a broader trend towards the “opening” of large data sets on the Web (“open data”, “open archives”, “open government”). At the same time, the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and the existence of contesting narratives of the creation of Israel threaten the integrity of the official national memory. In this context, what are the conditions and limits of “opening” the national photographic archive? Examining contemporary ideology of the “open” in new media discourses and the free culture movement, this paper investigates the conditions of circulation and appropriation of memory and the role of copyright as a potential tool to control freedom of expression.

Author Biography

Nathalie Casemajor, INRS

Nathalie Casemajor Loustau is a Postdoctoral Fellow at INRS – National Institute of Scientific Research (Montreal). She holds a PhD in Communication from Université du Québec à Montréal and a doctorate in Information and Communication Science from Université Lille 3 (2009), and is a former SSHRC postdoc at McGill University (Department of Art History and Communications Studies). Her work focuses on photographic memory, digital archiving and urban culture. In the recent years, she has been actively involved as a coordinator, administrator and researcher in multiple citizen collectives, cultural organizations and academic projects. She also taught at UQAM (School of Media, Department of Sociology) and at Université Lille 3 (Department of Arts and Culture).

Special Issue: Critical Visual Theory