Colours of the Past: Considerations on Photographic Colourisation of Archival Photographs


  • Eduard-Claudiu Gross



colourisation, digitisation, artificial intelligence, photography, digital heritage


This essay addresses the subject of the automatic colourisation of
archival black and white photographs using artificial intelligence. In
the context of digitisation, there is an increasing number of collections
available. Since in most cases the photographs were taken in black
and white due to technical limitations, rather than the artistic choice
of the photographer, colourisation is potentially helpful for archivists
and anthropologists in decrypting new meaning from archival
collections. Colourisation is a process around which several questions
revolve, both in terms of the usefulness of colourised photographs
and the ethical dimension. This study reviews reasons both for and
against colourisation. Research in the field of technology currently
concentrates on technical details, with attention focused almost
entirely on the process without looking critically at potential utility
in other fields. Anthropologists, historians, archivists, and digital
humanities researchers could benefit from these automated processes
if they were made accessible. The main purpose of this paper is to
initiate a debate that will result in an interdisciplinary collaboration
between the technical and the humanities fields.


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Author Biography

Eduard-Claudiu Gross

Eduard-Claudiu Gross is a PhD student at the Doctoral School
of Communication, PR and Advertising, Faculty of Political,
Administrative and Communication Science, within BabeČ™-Bolyai
University, with a particular interest in researching the digital space
and the impact of emerging technology on the individual. His areas
of research interest are photography, digital disinformation and