IU's Digital Library Program receives federal grant to digitize half a century of America in color slides
Nov. 9, 2000
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Digital Library Program has received a $147,000 National Leadership Grant to digitize and present on the World Wide Web nearly 18,000 Kodachrome slides taken by amateur photographer Charles Weever Cushman between 1938 and 1969.
This project provides a unique opportunity to create a searchable database that can serve as a model for other institutions, and to test methods of color restoration for Kodachrome slides.
Cushman, who graduated from IU in 1917, bequeathed to the university some of his photographic equipment, his notebooks and his entire collection of photographs, shot between 1917 and 1969. Many of the photographs are in black and white, but the digitization project will focus only on the color slide portion of the collection, which began in 1938.
Cushman's photographs document a wide breadth of American life in skillfully composed and socially revealing images that add color to the World War II era, which was primarily documented in black and white. To view some of the images, go to http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/new/cushman/index.html
For half of the 20th century, Cushman photographed an amazing cross section of American life. From Indiana farmlands to New York City street scenes, from the mansions of the best-known Chicago figures to the storefronts of modest shopkeepers, he observed American life with a keen eye and captured it with startling immediacy in Kodachrome. The effect of immediacy is compounded by the detailed captions he wrote for his work, such as the names of people, street addresses, and even the time and date of photographs.
"This is the kind of thing historians dream about," wrote Sarah Burns, a senior fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center and Ruth N. Halls Professor of Fine Arts at IU.
The slides were unknown until a university archivist discovered them in late 1999. They were found, neatly packed and labeled, still in the suitcases in which they were delivered in 1972. IU's digitization expertise makes it possible to capitalize upon the immediacy of Kodachrome and share these images with a national audience of social historians, documentarians, historic preservationists and the general public.
"Remember the movie Pleasantville when the black-and-white world became color? That's what it feels like to see these slides," said Kris Brancolini, director of the IU Digital Library Program. "The Cushman collection provides a color portrait of a world most of us have seen portrayed in black and white. What's more, the collection allows us to explore the preservation of archival slides and the best way to provide digital access to them."
The slides shot in 1938 and early 1939 have experienced color deterioration because of the processing that Kodak used at the time. This portion of the collection gives the Digital Library Program a groundbreaking opportunity to research and test methods of color restoration.
To provide access to the nearly 18,000 photographs in the collection, the Digital Library team will create a database from scratch that will be used to generate a finding aid, permitting users to search the collection by location, date and keywords within the captions that Cushman wrote for each photograph. Subject terms from the Library of Congress Thesaurus for Graphic Materials will enhance this finding aid.
The color restoration, preservation and digitization of the slides, the creation of a relational database, and the finding aid are unique, experimental projects that will benefit other institutions.
The Digital Library Program has extensive experience in digitizing images, including the Frank M. Hohenberger Collection and some 11,000 images in the DIDO Image Bank. The program received a National Leadership Grant in 1998 to digitize the university's multimedia materials pertaining to master songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.
The Cushman Collection resides in the University Archives, the largest and most comprehensive source of information on the history and development of IU and part of the IU Bloomington Libraries.
National Leadership Grants are awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning.
The IU Digital Library Program is a collaborative effort of the IU Libraries, the IU Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, and the university research faculty with leadership from the IU School of Library and Information Science.
For more information about the Digital Library Program, contact Director Kristine Brancolini at 812-855-3710 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the IU Libraries, contact Eric Bartheld at 812-856-4817 or email@example.com
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