Photo of Joan M. Schwartz

Joan M. Schwartz

Adjunct Research Professor

Degrees:B.A. (Toronto), M.A. (British Columbia), Ph.D. (Queen's)

Joan M. Schwartz was a specialist in photography acquisition and research at the National Archives of Canada for more than two decades prior to her faculty appointment in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation at Queen’s. She is a Fellow of both the Society of American Archivists and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. With a particular interest in materiality, memory, and institutional discourse, she has published and lectured widely in the field of archives, historical geography, and the history of photography, and has served on the editorial boards of The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (2004) and the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Photography (2007). She co-edited Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination (with James Ryan for I.B.Tauris, 2003) and Archives, Record, and Power, two double issues of Archival Science (with Terry Cook in 2002). Her current research focuses on the history of photography and society, and on theoretical issues relating to archives and memory. With the support of an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, she is currently engaged in a four-year research project entitled, ” ‘Picturing Canada’: photographic images and geographical imaginings in British North America, 1839-1889,” focusing on the role of photography in nineteenth-century Canadian nation-building.

Research Interests

  • History of photography
  • 19th Century Photography & the Geographical Imagination
  • Early Landscape and Travel Photography
  • Photography in Canada
  • Photographic Archives Management
  • Photographs as Art/Fact/Artifact

Recent Publications


From Coast to Cariboo: The Photographic Legacy of Frederick Dally. Victoria, BC: Royal British Columbia Museum. Forthcoming, 2016 (see exhibitions).

Edited Collections

Co-editor (with James R. Ryan), Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination. London: I.B. Tauris, 2003 (reprinted 2006).

Recent Journal Articles

“‘To speak again with a full distinct voice’: Diplomatics, Archives, and Photographs,” in Archivi fotografici: Spazi del sapere, luoghi della ricerca, a special issue of Ricerche di Storia dell’Arte (Italy) 106 (2012): 7-24.

“Agent of Change or Marketing Bait: The Photograph in 100 Photos That Changed Canada,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 45, 2, Spring 2011: 205-222.

“Coming to Terms with Photographs: Descriptive Standards, Linguistic ‘Othering’ and the Margins of Archivy,” Archion: The Israeli Journal of Archives Studies and Documentation 16, 2010: 81-109, reprinted in Hebrew translation from Archivaria 54, Fall 2002: 142-171.

“Oh! What a Parade: Context and Materiality in the British Library Exhibition ‘Points of View: Capturing the Nineteenth Century in Photographs,’ ” Photography & Culture, 3, 2, July 2010: 195-206.

“Reading Robin Kelsey’s Archive Style Across the Archival Divide,” Journal of Archival Organization, 6, 3, 2008: 201-210.

“Medieval Archive meets the Postmodern World: The Inaugural Exhibition of the Archive of the Crown of Aragon, Barcelona, Spain,” Archivaria 64 Fall 2007: 199-209.

“Photographic Reflections: Nature, Landscape, and Environment,” Environmental History 12, October 2007: 966-993.

“‘Documentos fieles y precisos’: fotografía, archivos e illusión de control,” Tabula 10, 2007, pp.149-193; reprinted in Spanish translation from “‘Records of Simple Truth and Precision’: Photography, Archives, and the Illusion of Control,” Archivaria 50, Fall 2000: 1-40.

“’Having New Eyes’: Spaces of Archives, Landscapes of Power,” Archives & Social Studies: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 1, March 2007: 321-362; reprinted from Archivaria 61, Spring 2006: 1-25.

Edited Journal Issues

Guest Editor, “Archives: Space and Power,” (special section) Archivaria 61, Spring 2006, pp.1-104.

Guest Co-editor (with Terry Cook), Archives, Records, and Power (four numbers), two, special double issues of Archival Science: International Journal on Recorded Information, 2 (1-2 & 3-4), 2002.

Guest Editor, Canadian Photography, special issue of History of Photography, 20, 2, Summer 1996.

Guest Editor, The Past in Focus: Photography and British Columbia, 1858-1914, special issue of BC Studies, 52, Winter 1982.

Recent Chapters in Books and Edited Collections

“Photographic Archives and the Idea of Nation: Images, Imaginings, and Imagined Community,” in Costanza Caraffa and Tiziana Serena (eds), The Photographic Archives and the Idea of Nation. Berlin-Munich-Boston: De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 17-40.

“Science and Sentiment: The Work of Photography in Nineteenth-Century North America,” in Craig E. Colten and Geoffrey L. Buckley (eds), North American Odyssey: Historical Geographies for the Twenty-First Century. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, pp.227-249.

“Felix Man’s ‘Canada’: Imagined Geographies and Pre-Texts of Looking,” in Carol Payne and Andrea Kunard (eds), The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011, pp.3-22.

“Overlapping Ambiguities, Disciplinary Perspectives, and Metaphors of Looking: Reflections on a Landscape Photograph,” in Stephen Daniels, Dydia DeLyser, J Nicholas Entrikin, and Douglas Richardson (eds), Envisioning Landscapes, Making Worlds Geography and the Humanities. Routledge, 2011, pp.227-236.

“The Archival Garden: Photographic Plantings, Interpretive Choices, and Alternative Narratives,” in Terry Cook (ed.), Controlling the Past: Documenting Society and Institutions: Essays in Honor of Helen Willa Samuels. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2011, pp.69-110.

“Complicating the Picture: Place and Memory between Representation and Reflection,” in James Opp and John Walsh (eds), Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010, pp.292-312.


From Coast to Cariboo: The Photographic Legacy of Frederick Dally, Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC, November 2016-April 2017 (Guest Curator).

The Photographically Illustrated Book in Nineteenth-Century Canada, exhibition for the W.D.Jordan Special Collections, Queen’s University Library, Kingston, ON, November 2003 / January 2004.

The Photographically Illustrated Book in Nineteenth-Century Canada, exhibition for the National Library of Canada, Ottawa, ON, July – September 2002.

Cultural Capital: Portraits in Platinum by V. Tony Hauser, National Archives of Canada and National Arts Centre, Ottawa, ON, 21 February – 13 April 2001.