Cornell University Library site
A. D. White
Architectural Photographs

Project History


Decades in poor storage environments, lack of protective enclosures, physical handling over the years by students, and multiple moves took a considerable toll on the collection’s condition. Physical damage to the collection was greatly reduced, however, through conservation treatment. This expert treatment, coupled with the move to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library, made it safe for students and scholars to handle the collection again. To enable this work, curators and archivists first sorted and reorganized the collection by country, city, and by size of print. After sorting, the photographs were cleaned to remove heavy, damaging and disfiguring surface dirt. Most mounts of the larger photographs were reinforced on the edges and minor tears and breaks were mended to improve structural stability and handling. A survey was conducted at this point to flag those photographs requiring major treatment beyond cleaning and minor mount repair. The largest photographs (20" x 24" and 22" x 28") suffered the greatest damage over the years, being stored for decades slumping in bins or haphazardly on open shelving. Conservator Michele Hamill performed extensive cleaning and mount repair, and conducted humidification and flattening to reduce severe warping. Photographs 11 x 14 and smaller were interleaved with paper that passes the Photographic Activity Test (PAT), while those larger than 11 x 14 were individually housed in folders that also pass the PAT. The photographs were then placed in 6 standard sizes of drop-front archival storage boxes. In addition to the mounted photographs, a collection of 118 large-format photograph albums with mounted albumen photographs were surface cleaned, stabilized and stored appropriately.


Approximately 1,300 of the 13,000 photographs were digitized 2001-2003. Each image was cataloged with subject headings, keywords, geographical and architectural information, and information about architects and photographers, when known. The metadata was captured in a program called Multi MIMSY, a relational database for collections management then in use at Cornell. Images were captured on a PowerPhase One digital camera scanning back on a ZBE Satellite copy stand at 600 dpi, and in 36-bit color (interpolated down to 24-bit color images). The capture generated an .TIF format image file of 80 to 140 megabytes in size. A cropped, color-corrected image was then made from this rich master file, and is in turn used to create .JPEG and MrSID (Multiresolution Seamless Image Database) derivatives. MrSID is a image file format from LizardTech that reduces the size of high-resolution images to less than 3% of their original size while maintaining the quality and integrity of the original. Back in the day, master files were initially archived on CD ROM; they have since been transferred to Cornell Library’s preservation repository.


Cataloging, research, organization, and original web design: Rebecca Davidson, Elaine Engst, Susette Newberry
Conservation and Preservation: Louisa Bennion, John Dean, Michele Hamill
Photography: Rhea Garen, David Jones, Wyeth Koppenhaver
Database and browser support: Gale Halpern, Michael Creedon, Peter Hirtle, William Marquis

This project was funded by a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and by a gift from Mr. Patrick A. Gerschel. Participation of the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections was funded by a gift from Mr. Arthur Penn.