Filed on Jan 21st 2009 in Technology, Culture & Society
Libraries and digital images
In the pre-World Wide Web days, I once believed that the only way to see prints, maps, photographs and other archival image collections in libraries was to make an appointment, sign in, move to a seldom visited room and wait for the material to be brought. I cannot say for sure if that is exactly what happened in most places, but I suspect that it is not far from the truth. Things have changed considerably. I have long thought that libraries made very effective use of the Web from the earliest days. (see Google settlement re-maps online book world.) One of the most valuable services of libraries when the web was young was to begin the process of digitizing and bringing these heretofore hard to reach collections online. The availability of material has grown by leaps and bounds with many well known historical documents now accessible in high resolution digital form. Prestigious online galleries include the Library of Congress Digital Collections and the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.National and special libraries contain scanned images of many important and irreplaceable items. Smaller libraries have their own points of interest, often featuring archival photographs and prints from the neighborhood. Digital Metro New York hosts images from several NYC area colleges and universities and offers collections like Fulton Street Trade Cards, a collection of "245 late 19th and early 20th century illustrated trade cards" made available by the Brooklyn College Library, and Waterways of New York, made available by the Queens College library. The Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection Online has a nice collection called Historical Postcards of New York City. The New York Public Library has a large collection including scanned prints such as, MOVING UPTOWN: Nineteenth-century Views of Manhattan (don't miss the view of Brooklyn Heights circa 1836), and scanned photographs like, Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott, 1935-1938. Lewis Wickes Hine: The Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930-1931, features the famous image, Icarus. NYU Poly students are fortunate to be living in an area with three of the largest and best public library systems in the country. Read Enjoy multimedia on your computer or handheld courtesy of your local public library and check out Dibner Library's Other Libraries: Local Public Libraries to find out more about the services offered by these institutions. For an interesting article on how some libraries are using the power of the web, and relatively new (web 2.0) features to aid in identifying many specimens from their vast collection, see Historical Photos in Web Archives Gain Vivid New Lives. If you are interested in finding more digital images online, not only those hosted by libraries and academic institutions, but also eclectic collections like the Life Photo Archive, old postcards and magazine ads, check out Dibner Library's del.icio.us links to images.