Digitization Activities

My first couple of blogs focused on born-digital and scanned images created by Federal agencies and accessioned to the Still Picture unit, but I’m now shifting gears and highlighting some of our in-house digitization activities. The main series I’m going to talk about can trace its roots back to 1974 when we received the first of two accessions containing the Forest Service’s general photographic negative file, which they referred to as their Permanent Image Collection. These accessions also included microfilm and a small set of contact prints made by the Forest Service when negatives were deteriorating and/or nitrate.  What we didn’t receive were the corresponding prints, mostly mounted, that had been transferred to the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland.  These prints, which are arranged by subject categories, provide much easier access to photographs within the series. In 2004, the prints finally arrived and are now in the series, “Photographs Relating to National Forests, Resource Management Practices, Personnel, and Cultural and Economic History, ca. 1897-1980” (National Archives Identifier 651890).  Photographs in this series were submitted by Forest Service headquarters and regional photographers for inclusion in the Forest Service’s central photographic library. Images from all of the National Forest Regions, as well as forested areas and forest management practices in foreign countries are included. Subjects include forest management, range management, wildlife management, watershed management, fire control, research, and recreation.  As soon as the prints arrived, our digitization lab started on a massive project to digitize all of the prints, which was completed in 2012. No item level metadata was accessioned along with the images so currently researchers must search based on primary and secondary subject categories that are applied to a group of images. For example: “Towns and Cities: Occupied – Wyoming” and “Fire Prevention: CFFP – All States”.   The majority of captions are located on the front-side of the mounts and for un-mounted prints the captions are located on the reverse-side, so the entire mount or reverse-side was scanned for each image.  Depending on resources available, we plan on going back and adding captions whenever possible, especially for high-profile images.  Once these images are loaded into the Online Public Access (OPA) we also encourage researchers and staff to tag images to aid in searching. In the meantime, we are working on posting online a basic list of primary and secondary subject categories to search on. The images are currently available online through the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and in the Still Picture Research Room.

95-GP-4908-Box0828_049_001_AC Photograph No. 95-GP-4908-407566; “Group of jumpers about to take off in Ford Trimotor plans at Missoula Airport, Missoula, Montana, for practice jump with static line,” June 30, 1941; Photograph by K. D. Swan; Records of the Forest Service, Record Group 95; National Archives at College Park, MD.
95-GP-4854-Box0810_020_001_ACPhotograph No. 95-GP-4854-1; “President John F. Kennedy and Smokey Bear”;  Records of the Forest Service, Record Group 95; National Archives at College Park, MD.

Photograph No. 95-GP-3282-23988A; “Anchorage, Alaska, Main Street”; 1915; Photograph by H. S. Graves;  Records of the Forest Service, Record Group 95; National Archives at College Park, MD.
95-GP-4018-Box0675_002_001_ACPhotograph No. 95-GP-4018-529560; “After the April 6, 1980 eruption, the Mount St. Helens crater measured 1,200 by 1,700 feet. A Forest Service plane flies over the center in a photo by Reed Blackburn, a Columbian newspaper reporter who perished in the May 18, 1980 eruption”; Photograph by Reed Blackburn; Records of the Forest Service, Record Group 95; National Archives at College Park, MD.

In addition to the Forest Service photos described above, there are several other on-going or completed digitization projects taking place.  First there is an ongoing preservation project to digitize a portion of the series “Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels, 1883-1972” (National Archives Identifier 513052) . This series is arranged in three parts with the third part currently being digitized. Other finished projects include the series “Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942-1945” (National Archives Identifier 2842724) and “Propaganda Posters Distributed in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, ca. 1950-ca. 1965” (National Archives Identifier 5051202).


Photograph No. 19-NN-AD-15-153954; “USS Prairie (AD-15) after regular overhaul, San Francisco Naval Yard”; January 1, 1956;  Records of the Bureau of Ships; Record Group 19; National Archives at College Park, MD.
still picture number:Item No. 208-AOP-1-1; “Must! Shall!”; Artwork by James Montgomery Flagg; Records of the Office of War Information; Record Group 208; National Archives at College Park, MD.
306-ppb-170-2011-001-prPoster No. 306-PPB-170; “The Red Target is Your Home!”; 1951; Records of U.S. Information Agency; Record Group 306; National Archives at College Park, MD.