Since I’ve been wandering around other people’s online archives this week, I want to bring it back home and mention MDAH’s growing digital archive. Those of you who don’t spend each and every day checking the MDAH website for new features and information like I do may not have noticed that when you get onto the online catalog, there’s a new-ish tab over to the far right titled “Online Archives.” If you click that, you get to a page that lists the several important photograph and postcard collections MDAH has scanned (and is continuing to scan) that give us free access to high-quality images that have not been previously available.
Should I admit that I was moved almost to tears when I first saw that full-color postcard images previously only seen in the archival reading room were now easily copied into a document or presentation with the right-click of a mouse? No, I won’t admit that, but it was a happy moment in my (admittedly so-called) life.
The images aren’t huge–they’re in the 400kb range, so you wouldn’t be able to blow them up and hang them on your wall or publish them in a book–but they suit most of my needs since, as you might notice, I’m too busy being a Blogger to actually publish a book.
Anyway, the collection I especially love is the Cooper Postcard Collection which has about 4600 in its “real” incarnation. Granted they’ve only gotten 163 scanned, but they’re working on it. Here’s an example of the types of historical photos, sometimes black-and-white but often colorized that you’ll find in Cooper:
And a nice thing I just realized as I uploaded this is that when you download the image from the MDAH Online Archives, it also downloads a description that I suppose in the hip and cool archival world is referred to as “metadata.” Here’s what the automatically downloaded description says for the above image:
From The J. J. White Lumber Co. office building, McComb City, Mississippi. Office of the J. J. White Lumber Co., Liberty White R. R., McComb City Cotton Mills, White-Mey Brick Co. Sysid 92621. Scanned as TIFF in 2007/04/05 by MDAH. Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
There are other collections of images in the list, including the E. von Seutter Collection which contains rare images from around the Civil War in Jackson, some of them stereocards that show the image twice so you can see it in a viewer, like when you were a kid. Here’s one for instance (I’ll let all you architectural detectives figure out for yourself which building it is):
Another digital collection with interesting photos of buildings from our history is the Montcrief Collection, with images from the 1950s and 60s showing buildings but also important Civil Rights events. This one shows both:
Isn’t this a great photo? Plus the Montcrief Collection is actually searchable by category–this one is under the “African American Churches” link, so that allows you to be efficient in searching for photos that have buildings in them.
I won’t go into all the collections, but with digital archives, it’s not that time-consuming to at least look at the description for each collection to see what it might hold. Even the Sovereignty Commission collection (which I believe was the first MDAH collection available in digital format) has a few nice pictures of buildings in it, along with good information about possible Civil Rights significance for certain places around the state.
Just a few years ago, the digital resources for architecture were hit-and-miss (and mostly miss). Architectural research was slow and tedious and often unproductive, attracting people like me who thought that “slow and tedious and unproductive” sounded like a lot of fun. But now these simple but amazing resources are increasingly available to simple citizens such as ourselves sitting at computers in our homes–now we can all take part in the fun and exciting world of architectural history!