From Analog to Digital
When I first started working with the Still Picture Processing Team in College Park, MD , my first three projects dealt with gelatin dry plate glass negatives, albumen cartes-de-visite and Kodachrome film. Even though we will still be accessioning analog photography for years to come and dealing with the issues that come with that (most notably millions of analog negatives from NASA’s Shuttle Program), times have certainly changed. Over the past decade, we have seen agencies fully transition to the use of digital photography. Many accessions whose coverage dates range from the early to mid-2000s, are a mix of analog and digital. Most accessions dating from 2005 to the present are completely digital. Just like prints, negatives and transparencies are intellectually all photographs, at their core digital images are just photographs in a different physical form. Digital records certainly provide new processing and preservation issues, with shorter schedule disposition periods and ongoing technology changes, but it also provides us with an opportunity to reach a broader researcher community by providing accessible and usable images online. We see the Online Public Access (OPA) system as our mechanism to provide access to these records, sort of like an online research room.
During the last three years, we have accessioned over 700,000 digital photos, half of which have been ingested into the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) with the other half in the process of being ingested. Approximately 105,000 of these images are currently available through ARC and OPA with the rest available in the near future. Agencies currently represented in our online holdings include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Education, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of the Interior (DOI).
Photograph No. 311-MAD-19200; “Neighborhoods and roadways throughout the area remain flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina,” New Orleans, LA, Sept. 8, 2005; Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA; Records of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Record Group 311; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 255-MG-S65-30430; “Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight, floats in zero gravity of space over southern California,” June 3, 1965; Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Record Group 255; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 207-DP-8847-DSC_0757; “Mitt Romney viewing a portrait of his father, George Romney, with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson,” May 3, 2004; Records of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Record Group 207, National Archives at College Park, MD.
Digital holdings for several other agencies will be represented in the near future, including the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Commerce as well as additional images for the EPA, HUD and Interior.
Photograph No. 330-CFD-DM-SD-02-03880; “The Pentagon in flames moments after a hijacked jetliner crashed into building at approximately 0930 on September 11, 2001”; Photo by CPL Jason Ingersoll, USMC; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 412-APD-673-2010-06-04_GrandIsle_71; “Oil from BP Spill coats beach and jetty at Grand Isle State Park, LA,” June 4, 2010; USEPA photo by Eric Vance; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, Record Group 412; National Archives at College Park, MD.
Photograph No. 59-CF-DS-11872A-04_DSC_0018; “Actress Angelina Jolie with State Secretary Colin Powell at a reception in the Harry S. Truman Building. The actress was attending the Secretary’s Open Forum session on the documentary film investigating Southeast Asia sex trafficking, “Trading Women.”,” May 25, 2004; Photo by Ann Thomas; Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives at College Park, MD.
One way that we will use this blog is to announce when new images are now available online or through our research room. This not only goes for born-digital, but also analog images and in some cases, digital surrogates created from original analog material.