April 17, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 15

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    Project opens archives to the world

    Environmental photo collection to soon be available on Web More than 5,800 photographs and glass slides taken by University faculty members and students around the turn of the century will be digitized and made available on the Library of Congress' Web site and the University Library's site. The project will begin in October.

    The project, which is funded by Ameritech, granted $67,400 to the University to digitize the photographs and slides, currently available for viewing only through the University's archives.

    The photographs were taken in the late 1890s and early 1900s on field trips throughout the United States, particularly in the Midwest, to document plant species and land formations, said Alice Schreyer, Curator of Special Collections. Many of the images, including some of Illinois prairies and the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, show what various regions of the country looked like before erosion and population growth changed the landscape.

    "The photographs were taken by University of Chicago professors and students at the end of the 19th century in places that have since been designated national parks and wilderness areas," Schreyer said.

    "The slides have been valuable to people who wanted to see what areas looked like before they were altered by time and erosion. Of course, to view the slides people had to come to Special Collections and make arrangements to see them. This project will open these archives to the world."

    The University's collection, titled "American Environmental Photographs, 1897-1931," is one of 10 collections chosen by the Library of Congress for placement on its Web site.

    Other collections on the site will include 19th century sheet music, photographs documenting the settlement of the Great Plains and first-person narratives of southern life in the 1800s.

    The grants are part of the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition, a three-year program made possible by a $2 million gift from the Ameritech Foundation. The grants enable libraries, archives and historical societies to digitize their collections of historical material for inclusion in "American Memory," the Library of Congress' online collection of primary source materials in U.S. history and culture. The web site is at www.loc.gov. Links to additional information and sample images are available at www.lib.uchicago.edu/LibInfo, the University Library homepage.