Does their presence on a gallery wall give the images an elevated status? The very fact of their display on the gallery wall will change their status. Previously they were “unwanted” photos that nobody was interested in purchasing – now they are part of an exhibition and this context will change their status. Whereas previously nobody was looking at them, now they are subject to scrutiny from many visitors.
Their meaning will now have a dual source – the original meaning, which was a family portrait but also now a second meaning which derives from its presence as part of an exhibition. Their second meaning will be drawn from the intention of the artist – collection of a certain type of portrait. Further meaning will also come from the accompanying text.
It is quite possible that their value, as part of an ‘art exhibition’ will be increased. Previously they were of no value – nobody had bid for them on eBay – now, because of their forming part of a work of art, they may well have greater value. The greatest value, I would have thought, would have been if the archive had been sold as a complete collection.