The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
It's always satisfying to put a big check mark next to a completed task, and this month we completed the huge task of digitizing all the images in our collection of Science Service records (Accession 90-105). We've talked about this collection before, most recently during the past two celebrations of Women's History Month. Science Service, a syndicated news service that distributed news stories about science, kept a large morgue file of past stories, clippings and photographs that they would file for reference and re-use. We started scanning images from this collection in September 2007, relying solely on interns and volunteers to chip away at the photos. Note that we weren't scanning from this collection every day, and we had no real idea of exactly how many photos were in the accession, but we knew they had wide-ranging value. The images document the international scientific community of the 20th Century, and they include numerous Nobel laureates, men and women of all scientific disciplines, Science Service staff, and more. Our final count is 9,370 digitized images. Soon after she started, the first intern we assigned to this project, Amanda Radmacher, dubbed this the "dead white guy's collection," as men have dominated in the area of science. That’s a lot of dead white guys. Next, we need to better describe the images and get them online. This will be a long process, too. However, we're starting with the "low-hanging fruit," and pushing on, also hopefully developing a more automated method for placing the images on the web. I want to make sure to mention the other eight interns and volunteers who helped us get here: Carrie Tallichet, Caroline Yee, Deborah Khuanglawn, Dara Taylor, Emily Hagens, Erin Townsend, Krystal Thomas, and Tywanna Janies. And I want to mention the contributions of Marcel LaFollette, who has written a bunch of the captions, and Ariel Segal who is researching the images and adding index terms to our system. Many thanks to all of you! And to everyone else, go check out a big portion of these images on the Smithsonian's Collections Search Center, as well as our new Science Service set on the Flickr Commons.