Digitising the photo documents of Georgia's central state audio-visual archive (EAP057)

Aims and objectives

Due to the economical circumstances in the last decades in Georgia, the state archives and documents of the country have many needs and problems for saving its cultural heritage.

There are especially poor conditions for the documents in the Audio-Visual Central State Archive of Georgia which was established in June 1944 and located in a decaying archival complex (crumbling walls, broken windows, leak, mould, insect and other damage). The lack of state funding other than for salaries compounds these problems and has created a situation in which the documents are in jeopardy. For instance, almost all photo documents which were taken in the 19th century could be totally destroyed in 10-20 years' time, the photos up to the 1950s - after 30-40 years, etc. Of the photo documents held by the archive, there are many faded and deteriorating photos which cannot be repaired since there are insufficient funds and many photos are subject to decay over time and may in addition be damaged by humidity, oxidation and mould and etc, and their use in practice may bring about hindrances.

In addition, the photo catalogue is inadequate for conducting research. The descriptions and annotations are framed according to the priorities of a Marxist-Leninist perspective on Georgian history and therefore omit much valuable information on institutions, political parties, ethnic groups and individuals who were not recognized as valuable contributors to the transformation of Georgia into a Soviet republic. Many photos are not even included in the catalogues; discrepancies exist between the numbers of photos given in the catalogue. Furthermore, the descriptions, annotations and catalogue are written only in Georgian, and they are tattered and difficult to read.

The earliest photographs kept in the archive are taken by Alexander Ivanisky in August-September of 1858. These are the images of old Tbilisi and different places of the capital of Iberia (old Georgia) Mtskheta, architectural monuments and citizens. From 1863 in Georgia the staff of the Caucasian Army Photographic Department began its existence, which had the aim of using photography for topography, ethnography, archaeology and everywhere, where this art can be in use of the country and science.

The immediate goal of this pilot project is to undertake a survey of the content matter of the most endangered photographs, and to take sample copies of the photographs, in order to investigate the potential and the feasibility of a major project aimed at safeguarding the photographic materials from 1858-1921 held in the Audio-Visual Central State Archive of Georgia.


This pilot project was successful in surveying over 1,000 photograph albums and collections, containing some 90,000 photographs, held in the archive. The most valuable and endangered photographs of 9 photographers were selected: Alexander Ivanitsky, Alexander Roinashvili, Vittorio Sella, Dimitri Jermakov, Constantine Zanis, Alexander Engel, Simon Esadze, Nikiloz Sagharadze, Vasil Chlaidze. In addition some unknown photographers from the period 1858-1921 were selected. Approximately 5,000 photographs were selected and will form the basis of a future major digitisation project.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: