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    JMU's Historical Photo Collection
    by Chris Bolgiano, Special Collections Librarian

    The approximately 1,600 photos in the JMU Historic Photo Collection in Special Collections began as a total mess:  two cardboard boxes of photos jumbled together.   Few photos had any identification.  It took me a year to sort them into subject categories and set up a file cabinet for them.  But as soon as the photos became accessible, they became popular.  Staff use them to add historical resonance to university publications and for celebratory displays.  Students used them (protected in mats and plastic covers) for class presentations, until one student neglected to return a photo on time.  I had the student called out of class and reminded.  The photo came back then, but the policy was changed:  no longer could the photos be taken out of the building.  

    Mayday 1950

    Photos are perhaps the most amenable medium for digitization, and digital access promised not only to make the photos much more widely viewable but also to reduce the handling of the original photos, thereby contributing to their conservation.  So about four years ago a team of people from Special Collections and Media Resources began a project to make the JMU photos electronically available.  It has been a technical nightmare.  Hardware broke down, software changed, and the complexities of moving the images from one computer to another to accomplish the necessary editing have been daunting. 

    But determination, especially on the part of Patricia Reynolds, who took over this project about two years ago, has won out.  Digitization should be completed by the end of this semester.  The final step will be to burn high-resolution images onto CDs and make about 15 copies of the CDs, four of which will be held in SC (two archival, two for check-out) and the others sent to appropriate campus offices.   

    Graduation 1914

    To view the photos, click on Photo File Key on the JMU Historical Collections page of the SC website:  /special/aboutjmu.html


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