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Pictorial Collection Guides: Representative Examples

Collection guides can provide valuable overviews of pictorial holdings in libraries, archives, and museums. In addition to summarizing each collection at a repository, guides can outline relationships among collections and highlight special attractions. Repositories with limited resources may rely on guides as their sole access tool. But even repositories with online catalogs may need guides to orient new users to the full scope of available resources. The introductions to guides can convey acquisition themes and general history to assist researchers in understanding the nature of the collections.

This list of representative guides is designed to encourage archivists and librarians to compile guides to their own repositories. The examples come from a wide variety of institutions to offer patterns easily adapted to local needs. Looking at sample guides can also help staff learn to succinctly describe pictorial materials for any kind of collection survey or cataloging work. Reading about past acquisition trends, arrangement practices, and research uses in the guide introductions can broaden understanding of current access system needs.

The selected examples include online and printed guides to documentary photograph, print, drawing, and ephemera collections at public institutions, chiefly in the United States. The guides fall into three categories: narrative essay overviews; structured checklist entries (similar in content to records catalog but presented in a compactly and in a sequence that best serves researchers); and directories for holdings at multiple repositories. For examples of formal descriptions in catalogs, see Picture Catalogs Online, (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/resource/223_piccat.html).

Disclaimer icon The Library of Congress does not maintain most of these sites. Users should direct concerns about these links to their respective site administrators or webmasters.

Table of Contents

Structured Checklist Guides

Alaska State Library: A Guide to Historical Photographs in the Alaska State Library: Including a Selection of Photographs on Microfiche. Juneau, AK: Alaska Department of Education, Division of State Libraries and Museums, 1981. 14 p., 159 microfiche sheets.

American Antiquarian Society: Under Its Generous Dome: The Collections and Programs of the American Antiquarian Society. 2nd ed. rev. Worcester, MA: The Society, 1992. 190 p. Also available online as a 3rd edition, 2002 at http://www.americanantiquarian.org/guidebook.htm.

Atlanta Historical Society: Garnel, Faye. Atlanta Images: A Guide to the Photograph Collections of the Atlanta Historical Society. Atlanta, GA: The Society, 1978. 33 p.

Boston Public Library: Collections of the Print Department. 2001. Available online at http://www.bpl.org/research/print/collections.htm.

California Museum of Photography: "Guide to Collections." CMP Bulletin 9, no. 1-2 (1989): 1-63.

California State Archives: Photograph Collections. 2000. Available online at http://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/collections/photographs/.

Connecticut State Library: Pictorial Collections A-Z, http://www.ctstatelibrary.org/node/8856.

Hagley Museum and Library: Williams, Jon M. A Guide to Iron and Steel: Pictures in the Hagley Museum and Library. Wilmington, DE: The Museum and Library, 1986. 76 p.

Historic New Orleans Collection: Lawrence, John H. Guide to the Photographic Collections at the Historic New Orleans Collection. New Orleans: The Collection, 1989. 21 p.

Library of Congress

  • Guide records in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/guide/
  • Melville, Annette. Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide. Washington, DC: The Library, 1980. 464 p.
  • Vanderbilt, Paul. Guide to the Special Collections of Prints & Photographs in the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The Library, 1955. 200 p.

Missouri State Archives: Photographs. Available online at http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/photo.asp .

National Archives and Records Administration: Burger, Barbara Lewis. Guide to the Holdings of the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration. Washington, DC: The Archives 1991. 166 p. Also available online at http://www.archives.gov/research/guides/still-pictures-guide.html

National Archives of Canada: Seifried, Christopher. National Photography Collection. Ottawa, Ont.: Public Archives of Canada, 1984. 49 p.

National Library of Ireland: Rouse, Sarah. Into the Light: An Illustrated Guide to the Photograph Collections in the National Library of Ireland. Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 1998. 120 p.

National Maritime Museum (U.S.): Maounis, John, and Daniel L. Keller, comps. Four Maritime Photograph Collections: A Guide to the Morrison, Hester, Morton-Waters, and Procter Collections. San Francisco: The Museum, 1982. 61 p.

Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County:Guide to the Photograph Collections. Undated, http://www.nhm.org/site/research-collections/seaver-center/photograph-collections-guide

New-York Historical Society: Zinkham, Helena. A Guide to Print, Photograph, Architecture & Ephemera Collections of The New York-Historical Society. New York: The Society, 1998. 175 p.

New York State Archives and Records Administration: Andress, Richard, and Elisabeth A. Golding. Enduring Images: A Guide to the Photographic Records in the New York State Archives. Albany, NY: University of the State of New York, 1993. 27 p.

North Dakota State University: Bye, John E. From the Northern Prairies: Guide to the Visual Collections of the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo. Fargo: The Institute, 1991. 1 vol.

Northern Arizona University: Cline Library. Special Collections and Archives Department. Photo Archive Finding Guide. The Library, c1998.

Pennsylvania State Archives: Ries, Linda A. Guide to Photographs at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993. 229 p.

San Diego Historical Society: Willett, Gregory L. "Guide to the Photographic Collections of the San Diego Historical Society." Journal of San Diego History (1998). Also available online at http://www.sandiegohistory.org/photocollect/photocollect.htm.

Smithsonian Institution: Vogt O'Connor, Diane. Guide to Photographic Collections at the Smithsonian Institution. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989-1995. 4 vol.

Texas Tech University. Southwest Collection: Guide to the Manuscript and Photograph Collections of the Southwest Collections. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, 1996. 402 p.

University of Arizona. Center for Creative Photography: Myers, Roger, comp. Guide to Archival Materials of the Center for Creative Photography. Tucson, AZ: The Center, 1986. 126 p.

University of Louisville: Photographic Archives.Louisville, KY: The University, ca. 1990. 12 p.

University of Oklahoma: Southwell, Kristina L., comp. Guide to Photographs in the Western History Collections of the University of Oklahoma. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. 190 p.

University of Texas at Arlington: Rodnitzky, Shirley R. A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the Special Collections Division at The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Arlington, TX: The University of Texas at Arlington, 2000. Also available online at http://libraries.uta.edu/SpecColl/findaids/guideIntr.htm.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Haworth-Booth, Mark. Photography, an Independent Art: Photographs from the Victoria and Albert Museum 1839-1996. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997. 208 p.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: The Photograph Collection. http://spec.lib.vt.edu/specgen/photogph.htm

Narrative Essay Guides

Amon Carter Museum of Western Art: Hughston, Milan R. "The Print Collection of the Amon Carter Museum." Imprint 7 (Autumn 1982): 17-27.

  • The American Historical Print Collectors Society published similar profiles for many other repositories between 1979 and 1989: Boston Athenaeum, Chicago Historical Society, Essex Institute, Henry Ford Museum, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Maryland Historical Society, National Portrait Gallery, New-York Historical Society, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Archives of American Art: Garnett, McCoy. "Photographs and Photography in the Archives of American Art." Archives of American Art Journal 12, no. 3 (1972): 1-18.

Art Institute of Chicago: Ryerson & Burnham Archives: Collection Descriptions. The Institute, 20002. Available online at http://www.artic.edu/research/archival-collections.

Indiana Historical Society: Manuscript and Visual Collections. 2000.http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/manuscript-and-visual-collections/alphabetical-index-manuscript-and-visual-collections-1

Library of Congress:

  • Katz, Harry, and Sara Duke. "Cartoon-related Research at the Library of Congress." 1994-2003. Available online at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/cartoon_research.html (accessed July 20, 2004).
  • Peatross, C. Ford. "Architectural Collections of the Library of Congress." Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 34 (July 1977): 249-284.

Maryland Historical Society: Cox, Lynn, and Helena Zinkham. "Picture Research at the Maryland Historical Society: A Guide to the Sources." Maryland Historical Magazine 76 (Spring 1981): 1-21.

Michigan State Archives: Guide for Photo Researchers. Available online at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-54463_54475_18660-54109--,00.html.

National Museum of American History: G.A. 100: The Centenary of the Division of Graphic Arts. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1986. 51 p.

University of Pennsylvania: Kenworthy, Mary Anne. "Photo Archives, University of Pennsylvania Museum." Picture Scope 32 (Spring 1986): 58-63.

  • Other articles in the Picture Scope collection profile series cover the John F. Kennedy Library, Minnesota Historical Society, Montana Historical Society, and University of California at Berkeley.

University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: Pezzati, Alessandro. Adventures in Photography: Expeditions of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Philadelphia: The Museum, 2002. 88 p.

St. Lawrence University: Photographs at St. Lawrence University: A Critical Survey and Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery, with Selected Photographs from Special Collections and University Archives of the Owen D. Young Library. Canton, NY: St. Lawrence University, 2000. 219 p.

State Historical Society of Iowa: Audio-Visual Collection - Des Moines Center. Available online at

Directories to Collections at Multiple Repositories

Architectural Research Materials in New York City: A Guide to Resources in All Five Boroughs. New York: Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records, 1977. 1 loose leaf vol.

Brightbill, George D., and Colleen Byrne. PACSCL Photograph Directory and Index: Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, Delaware. Philadelphia: Temple University, Urban Archives, 1996. Also available online at http://www.library.temple.edu/urbana/titdir.htm.

Claassen, Lynda C. Finder's Guide to Prints and Drawings in the Smithsonian Institution. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981. 210 p.

Conkelton, Sheryl, comp. University of California: Directory of Photographic Collections. Riverside, CA: California Museum of Photography, 1985. ca. 180 p.

Davidson, Martha, ed. Picture Collections, Mexico: A Guide to Picture Sources in the United Mexican States. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988. 292 p.

Dexter, Lorraine. "American Collections of Stereoscopic Photographs." Eye to Eye, no. 5 (June 1954): 3-23.

Eakins, Rosemary, ed. Picture Sources UK. London: Macdonald, 1985. 474 p.

Eskind, Andrew H., ed. Index to American Photographic Collections. 3rd ed. New York: G.K. Hall, 1996. 1058 p.

Eskind, Andrew H., and Greg Drake, eds. Photography Database. 2010-present. http://photographydatabase.org/about.html (Continues the <em>Index to American Photographic Collections</em>)

Evans, Hilary, and Mary Evans, comps. Picture Researcher's Handbook: An International Guide to Picture Sources and How to Use Them. 6th ed. London: Routledge, 1996. 649 p.

Freeman, Carla C., and Barbara Stevenson, eds. The Visual Resources Directory: Art Slide and Photograph Collections in the United States and Canada. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1995. 174 p.

Gorin, Abbye A. A Guide to Photographic Collections in New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: University of New Orleans, 1987. 130 p.

Graphic History Society of America. [Notes about Collections]. Eye to Eye: Bulletin of the Graphic History Society of America, no. 1-6 (June 1953-Sept. 1954). Includes catalog card format descriptions of 179 collections at many institutions. A related survey of pictorial collections summarizes holdings in ten U.S. states.

Green, Shirley L., comp. Pictorial Resources in the Washington, D.C., Area. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1976. 297 p.

Harvard University Library. Photographs at Harvard and Radcliffe: A Directory. Cambridge, MA: The Library, 1984. 83 p.

Harvard University Library, Weissman Preservation Center. A Directory to Photographs at Harvard. 2004. Available online at: http://preserve.harvard.edu/photographs/directory.html

Jacoby, Mary Moore, ed. Charleston--A Guide to Photographic Resources. Charleston, SC: Preservation Society of Charleston, 1994. 31 p.

Lowell, Waverly B., ed. Architectural Records in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland, 1988. 350 p.

Pearce-Moses, Richard, comp. Photographic Collections in Texas: A Union Guide. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1987. 381 p.

Robl, Ernest H., ed. Picture Sources 4. 4th ed. New York: Special Libraries Association, 1983. 180 p.

Seifried, Christopher, ed. Guide to Canadian Photographic Archives. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada, 1984. 727 p.

Symons, Jane. Photographic Resources of Australia, 1990. Sydney: J. Symons, 1989. 359 p.

Union Guide to Photograph Collections of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society, 1978. 419 p.

Wall, John, comp. Directory of British Photographic Collections. London: Heinemann, 1977. 226 p.

Selection Criteria

The entries in this bibliography were selected according to the following criteria:

- English language publications - Collections in public institutions
- Overviews; not item-level checklists - Exhibit catalogs only if repository overview and history

- General decriptions of holdings; not thematic selections or individual collection profiles

- Five or more pages, including articles, books, and Web sites

Compiled by: Helena Zinkham, Head, Technical Services Section, Prints and Photographs Division, June 2004. Last revised: Januay 2014.


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  January 6, 2014
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