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In an effort to make its historical photograph collection accessible on the Internet, Lafayette’s Special Collections and College Archives recently applied for and received a $4,915 grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The grant will be used to provide enhanced access to approximately 500-750 of the archives’ most significant and heavily used images, and to establish standard procedures for scanning, storing, and managing these and future images in accordance with best practices guidelines.

The collection is arranged into six series — individuals, groups, campus and buildings, campus life and activities, athletics, and special formats, which includes albums, negatives, slides, glass-plate negatives, lantern slides, stereocards, and panoramic views.

Images to be selected will not only include the most visually and historically significant pictures, but will also include a representative sample of the kinds of images to be found in the collection.

“Probable areas of emphasis will include Lafayette College presidents and faculty, campus buildings and the evolution of the college’s built environment, classroom scenes throughout the years, documentation of women, African-American, and foreign students on campus, athletic teams, and alumni reunions,” says Diane Shaw, Special Collections librarian and college archivist.

Lafayette’s historical photograph collection includes 50,000-60,000 catalogued images, which document the history of the College from the beginning days of photography to the present. Since its inception in 1988, the collection has been in almost constant use by users, which include students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and off-campus researchers. It has also been used to support photography courses offered in the art department and history of photography courses offered in American studies.

“While my current students learn a valuable lesson about the fragility of such material, it is urgent that access be enhanced and fidelity of the images preserved for generations of students and scholars to come,” says Andrew Smith, assistant professor of English and American studies chair. “Digitizing the collection and making it web accessible is an important first step in this process.”

The public will also benefit from the project through the online availability of some of the most interesting and appealing images from the Lafayette College Archives and access will be greatly enhanced by the searchability of the image database. Work on the project will take place through 2005 and photos should be available on the Internet by the 2005-2006 academic year.

Categorized in: Academic News