Many different factors are considered when selecting a series for digitization. Records that are particularly fragile or have high intrinsic value might be digitized to help preserve the originals by reducing the amount of physical handling each item receives. Records that are of high historical value might be digitized for posterity in order to ensure that the images are easily and perpetually available for generations to come. Records that have exceptionally high research value might be digitized to increase access, ensuring that any and all who wish to interact with our nation’s history are able to do so regardless of their ability to visit us in person here in College Park, MD.
Digitizing for public access is absolutely a priority at NARA. More than anything else, we want the public to have access to the records we work so hard to protect and preserve. These images represent who we are as a people, and We The People have not only a right to our history but a responsibility to it as well.
Earlier this year, Still Picture Branch completed the digitization of the series 26-LG: Lighthouses, 1855 -1933. This is a mid-sized series for Still Picture Branch, being just over 84 linear feet, and was a particularly good candidate for digitization due to the age, condition, and research value of the photographs therein. The photographs are Coast Guard records and were created and collected by the Bureau of Lighthouses. Because they were taken between 1855 and 1933, the Albumen, Gelatin-Silver Printing Out, and Gelatin-Silver Developing Out photographic processes are all represented in the series. There are also a few Cyanotypes. Most of the photographic prints were mounted, and mounts often contain caption information that was transcribed during the digitization process.
Images (Including Cyanotypes) of Esophus Island, New York
As of this summer, 26-LG is available in digital form on the National Archives Catalog. To access these images right now simply click here and search or browse for photographs by location. The series was arranged by district number with each district corresponding to a geographic area. Within these districts, 26-LG photos were then arranged in loose alphabetical order according to the name of the lighthouses. This arrangement is reflected in our catalog, where the file units are listed numerically by box number.
If you are starting your search from our catalog homepage and not from this blog, there are two ways to find photographs in 26-LG. The first is to browse by file units as you would following the direct link provided above, and the second is to search the whole series using keywords. To browse by file unit, you must search for “26-LG” in the catalog. Navigate to the 26-LG landing page and click on the link: “1124 file unit(s) described in the catalog.” This will take you to the file unit page that automatically groups the photos by location. When you select the location that interests you, a file unit landing page will provide you access to the images you wish to see. For example, if you click on “Maine — Egg Rock,” you will see a page that contains specific information about the photos of Egg Rock in Maine. Typically there will be nothing extraordinary here. However, you will be able to see that there are 7 Egg Rock, Maine images housed in our catalog. By clicking on either “7 item(s) described in the catalog” or the “Search within this file unit” button, you will be able to access all 7 Egg Rock, Maine photos at once.
Images of Egg Rock, Maine
To search the entire series by keyword, you must again start at the 26-LG landing page on our catalog. This time, select the “Search within this series” button. This will take you to a page where you can search every image in 26-LG at once using keywords in the search bar. You will see that *:* is already in the search bar at the top of the page. This is very important – it tells the catalog to only look at records for the series you have selected. In this case you have selected 26-LG. If you know the name of the lighthouse or location you are looking for, type it in the search bar to the right of the *:* provided. For example, if you wish to look for Egg Rock photos, your keyword search will look like this: *:* Egg Rock. This will take you to all the photos in 26-LG related to Egg Rock. It is important to notice that your search results using this method will often be different – there is an Egg Rock in Massachusetts as well as in Maine, and using the keyword “Egg Rock” returns photos from both locations.
Images of Egg Rock, Massachusetts
The digital images from 26-LG were scanned at high resolution and may be downloaded directly from our catalog. They are not subject to copyright. Researchers are encouraged to access and engage with these images. Please remember to cite them to the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives using the Local Identifier number, which is unique to each photograph and can be found in the National Archives Catalog below the image download button.
New series’ and photographs are continuously uploaded to our catalog. We are excited to share these records with you, and hope you will enjoy these images as much as we do!