Monday, 21 April 2014

Library of Congress Images Webinar

Diving Deep into Pictures at the Library of Congress
American Society of Picture Professionals Webinar
April 8, 2014

This webinar was prepared by Helena Zinkham, a staff member from the Library on Congress’ Prints and Photographs Division. Ms. Zinkham started her presentation with a brief summary of the mission and highlights of the Library of Congress’ photograph collections. They hope that photographers will use the collection for creative inspiration, to see changes over time, and learn from master photographers.  There are over 15 million items in the print and photograph division including cartoon, drawings, posters and items created domestically and internationally. One surprising fact that Ms. Zinkham shared is that there are 950,000 copyright free images in the Library of Congress! If you type “no known restrictions” after your search terms, the rights free images will pop up. If the rights to an image are undetermined, they will only post a thumbnail of the image to inhibit use by the general public. Users can easily search the database by keyword; but be advised that exact phrases cannot be found with quotes, you have to click the advanced search option. The Library of Congress has created several points of entry to their collections including the Guide Records link to search collections by creator, subject, or format. You can also bookmark a record, saving the URL and easily returning to it on a later date.

Some of the subjects that the Prints and Photographs Division is best known for include Civil War, News Photography, Great Depression, World War II, American Architecture, Landmark and Vernacular Structures, and Baseball. Their most popular collections include CQ/Roll Call, Toni Frissell, Art Wood Cartoons, US News and World Reports, and New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper. For the Audio Assault exhibit at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, we found quite a few images of civil rights protests in the New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper collection. When I lived in Phoenix in 2011, I was able to visit the Anne Bonfoey Taylor Fashion exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum; I had no idea that the photographs were rights free from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is constantly adding new digital content to their database, and users can influence this process and access un-digitized materials, if they are doing research in person or are able to hire a Washington D.C. based researcher. With the exception of nitrate negatives, which are stored off-site and only retrieved once per month, there is a two week turnaround for digitization requests in the Duplication Services department.  


To discover more images from the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions; researchers have a number of options. The Flickr Commons features 1.25 million photographs from 82 different libraries, archives, and museums. The Library of Congress hosts two blogs, Picture This, and The Signal; and other resources to help users obtain lawful access and use of collection materials.

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