Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free

“Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.”

Read more at Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free.

Cornell Alumni Magazine – Through a Glass, Darkly

I wanted to share a really interesting article from the Cornell Alumni Magazine — Through a Glass Darkly.

In a series of haunting images, Ithaca’s past and present collide
By Franklin Crawford Photographs by Mark Iwinski

Tuesday, 04 January 2011

In “This Was Now,” an exhibit of images by former Cornell visiting professor Mark Iwinski, the past and present exist side by side. On view last fall at the History Center of Tompkins County—itself housed, appropriately, in a converted Mayflower Moving and Storage building now known as the Gateway Center, at the foot of East State Street—the images feature vintage shots superimposed over modern downtown structures in situ. They contrast the “busy humming of the bustling town” with modern versions of the same sites, few of which compare favorably with the oldies.

The photos—or “re-photos,” as the artist calls them—highlight changes in society reflected through an altered urban landscape, and their effect is both instructive and haunting. For example, it is striking to see the bygone, Victorian-era City Hall superimposed over the existing parking garage and bus stop—or, right across the street, Ezra Cornell’s handsome Free Library atop what is now a drive-through bank and parking lot. The photo of Alonzo Cornell’s former mansion on Seneca Street, once a promenade of lovely Victorian homes, includes vague apparitions of long-dead citizens; in contrast, a modern-day woman crosses the street, shielding her eyes against the morning sun.

The old Ithaca Hotel seen against a modern two-story building.

Iwinski’s approach allows the viewer to see the old Ithaca in all its nineteenth-century splendor, yielding to socioeconomic forces that tore across the country. While they evoke nostalgia, the images also cast a cold eye on the present. Consider that the site of the grand old Strand Theatre, torn down nearly two decades ago, is now just a gravel parking lot.

For the rest of the story, and more images, visit the Cornell Alumni Magazine site.

The New-York Historical Society wants your photos of Time Square

Me in Times Square in October 2000 (too early for the NYHS project, but you get the idea).

As reported in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the New-York Historical Society is inviting members of the public—tourists and locals, amateurs and professionals—to send in digital photographs of Times Square taken between Nov. 21, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

You can send in as many as you like. And don’t worry, they don’t have to be works of creative genius. Snapshots are welcome.

“We are not looking for masterpiece photographs,” said curator Marilyn Satin Kushner, who heads the N-YHS’s Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections. “We’re looking to document Times Square at this moment in time.”

The Society’s open call is intended in part to bring its photography collection up to date. Though the institution houses a strong collection of images of Times Square in decades past—the earliest from the 1860s—its holdings of contemporary images needs a boost.

“Today’s pictures are tomorrow’s history,” Ms. Kushner said. “In order to preserve history, we need help from the public.”

Complete submission guidelines are available at

The September 11 Digital Archive

The September 11 Digital Archive was organized by the American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Containing more that 150,000 digital items (emails, photographs, documents, stories and more), the Archive was accepted by the Library of Congress into its collections in 2003.

From the web site:

Our goal is to create a permanent record of the events of September 11, 2001. In the process, we hope to foster some positive legacies of those terrible events by allowing people to tell their stories, making those stories available to a wide audience, providing historical context for understanding those events and their consequences, and helping historians and archivists improve their practices based on the lessons we learn from this project.

Browse: Explore the collection for stories, images, emails, documents, sounds, and videos of September 11

Research: Search, sort, and examine the entire collection

Contribute: Tell your story, add your email, and upload images, documents, and other digital files to the Archive

Rare color photos from the Depression

Rare color photos from the Great Depression were compiled by the Farm Services Administration from 1939 and 1944 –so it’s really more a mix of the Depression and the War years. These depictions of mostly rural life, however, have a lot to say about hard times, and their vivid colors bring to life what black and white, no matter how aesthetically pleasing, sometimes distances the viewer from.

Photographers working for the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939 and 1944 made approximately 1,600 color photographs that depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The pictures focus on rural areas and farm labor, as well as aspects of World War II mobilization, including factories, railroads, aviation training, and women working.

To browse the entire collection, visit the Library of Congress web site.

George Eastman House – preserving film history

From the Democrat & Chronicle:

A behind-the-scenes look at how George Eastman House (in Rochester, NY) is doing all it can to preserve film treasures.

Photos and films are frail pieces of art, no stronger than the paper or celluloid they’re made of.

George Eastman House helps preserve and repair these tattered objects, often more than a century old. Its six film technicians restore up to 200 films annually. Their quiet rescue mission reaches Hollywood studios and film archives around the world.

“Last year, we could have circled the Earth with that footage,” says Edward Stratmann, associate curator of motion pictures.

The museum revives many films at their last gasp. An estimated 90 percent of silent-era movies already have vanished. Others are dying “the death of 1,000 cuts” with tears, stains and fading.

“It we don’t act, sometimes it might be too late,” says Caroline Frick Page, curator for the motion picture department.

When they do act — on rare screen tests for Gone With the Wind (1939), for example, or the first full-length movie of Huckleberry Finn (1920) — a part of film or art history is saved both for posterity and practical use. The Eastman House gets constant inquiries from studios looking to make DVDs from restored prints.

Read more here.

Digitize and sell?

Am I reading this correctly? The Chicago Tribune is slowly digitizing all of their original photographs (all well and good) and then selling off all the prints, via

Chicago Tribune Begins Digitizing and Selling Archive Photographs. Chicago, IL (PRWEB) June 2, 2010 — The Chicago Tribune, one of the nation’s leading daily newspapers, has begun digitally archiving their extensive photo library, which includes historic photos and negatives dating back to the nineteenth century, and making the original vintage archive photos available to collectors once re-archived in digital form.

I feel two very different ways about this. On one hand, once you’ve scanned and stored and cataloged the digital image, and backed it up to high heaven, you’ve got it, right? On the other hand… really? Just sell all the originals off? I don’t know.

Who can save our archives? Turning to the private sector for digitization.

This morning I was catching up on listservs and came across a link to this article in The Chicago Sun Times:

The Sun-Times Preserves Its Photo Archive by Selling It
Posted by Michael Miner on Thu, May 6, 2010

It’s worth a read. The title isn’t misleading, but there’s more to the story. The paper’s archive was sold off to a private individual, John Rogers, who is digitizing the entire collection. When finished:

The Sun-Times retains “all the intellectual property, all the copyrights,” Barron said. What’s more, Rogers is obliged to re-create the “entire library in digital searchable form,” and make it accessible to the Sun-Times. This means Rogers is doing for the Sun-Times something it couldn’t afford to do for itself but dearly wanted to. “If we could have pulled it off,” said Barron, “it would have taken years and years and years and millions of dollars.” So the deal was a “dream come true.” And far from surrendering its photo archive, he says, once it’s digitized the Sun-Times will be able to exploit it to tap a growing “aftermarket” for copies of old news photos.

The items that are appearing on eBay are duplicates, Rogers clarified. Or “things I don’t want”, he also said, which I found a little too vague. Still it’s hard to argue with what this man is doing to preserve a unique collection. That is, assuming he’s doing it right, as opposed to the sloppy way Google is digitizing books (in my humble opinion).

(Make sure to read the updates at the end of the article, with further information. I’m especially glad they clarified the bit about the library who was “keeping their photos in the basement”, making it sound like they were in old fruit boxes next to the washer, as opposed to being carefully stored in an archive.)