There is something voyeuristic about peeking at online photo collections. After all you wouldnâ€™t go into your friendâ€™s house and say, â€œshow me your family photographs.â€ Yet thatâ€™s exactly what we do when we look at digital databases. Both the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian have searchable databases of images. So take a peek, they want you to look at our nationâ€™s history a photo at a time.
The Library of Congress allows users to search its database for images depicting historical events and everyday Americans. Recently the Library partnered with Flickr, Yahooâ€™s photo-sharing site to promote their materials and get the public involved by commenting on the images. Add your thoughts to specific images by viewing their Flickr gallery.
Expanding Your Search
Then expand your search. If youâ€™ve never used the Library of Congress website take a break and click on their website. Hereâ€™s what youâ€™ll find.
At the top of LOC homepage youâ€™ll see â€œLibrary Catalogs.â€ Click on that then select â€œPrints and Photograph Catalog.â€ Add your search termâ€”name, place, or subjectâ€”and youâ€™ll see a list of relevant hits. If youâ€™d rather see the images than read through the hits, click â€œPreview imagesâ€ button. If you see an image that youâ€™d like to enlarge, click on it. Some of the pictures on the website are downloadable as TIFFs or JPEGs.
In the American Memory section on the LOC page, youâ€™ll see digital exhibits of everything from sheet music to photos. This is a national project, so that small historical societies as well as the Library of Congress contribute materials. Search by the topical list provided or enter your own search term into the search box.
Photo Initiative at the Smithsonian
This year the Smithsonian began a photo initiative. According to their site, â€œâ€¦as digital technology is altering the form, content, and transmission of camera imageryâ€”Click! Photography Changes Everything provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the history, spread, practice, and power of photography.â€ Approximately 100 experts from a variety of fields write about how photography affects our world and lives. Essays arranged topically feature images from the Smithsonian. Explore the headings: Who We Are; What We Do; What We See; Where We Go; What We Want; and What We Remember.
You can also search for images in the Smithsonian Collections using the â€œsearch imagesâ€ link. Browse by museum collection or topic, or enter a search term.
There is a lot of exciting news in the photography world these days. Itâ€™s getting easier to see our past in terms of the images our ancestors created.
Maureen Taylorâ€™s essay on Photography and Family History appears on the Smithsonian site under â€œWhat We Remember.â€Â The Wall Street Journal recently profiled her work with family images. Check out her Photo Detective Roadshow on Smugmug.
Maureenâ€™s new book, Capturing Memories: Your Family History in Photographs, is available in the Ancestry Store.
Maureen’s Events Schedule
Come hear Maureen talk about photographs and family history. Sign up for a one-on-one consultation in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maureen will be at the following events:
- 11-12 April 2008, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Gen-a-Rama 2008