What You Can Find in the Library Part II: Photographs

In Part II of this series, we will look at some of the Photograph Collections held by the Library. The Library holds many types of photographic images, from early photographic processes such as ambrotypes and daguerreotypes to modern-day inkjet prints and digital images. We also have glass plate negatives and lantern slides as well as the negatives and slides with which many of us grew up. There are well over 100,000 images in our collection which depict nearly every topic imaginable about the lives of the people living in Albany and the Upper Hudson Valley from the 1840s to today. Please note that finding aids only tell you what is in a given collection but do not include the images themselves. A limited number of our photographs are available for viewing on the Albany Institute of History & Art website in the Collections Database. We also contribute to New York Heritageso watch for additional curated collections to go up soon! 
 
For a fantastic description and examples of the myriad photographic processes in use over the past two hundred years, please visit the Image Permanence Institute’s Graphic Atlas site.  
 

The Main Photograph Collection

The Library’s Main Photograph Collection is the largest collection of photographs held by AIHA. It is one of our most popular photograph collections due to its wide coverage of people, places, and events. The Main Photograph Collection is an artificial collection, meaning that it is a collection brought together and organized to facilitate its use, rather than by its provenance, or who created it. Many of the images found here have come to the Institute through single-item donations or may have been found in collections, meaning that the original documentation for these items does not exist due to technological migrations, misplaced files, or handshake agreements. Currently consisting of 52 series, some of the topics covered by the Main Photograph Collection include Early Albany Public Buildings, Albany Streets, Albany Churches, Albany Residents, and the Albany Bicentennial, to name just a few. More images are added to this collection constantly, keeping our volunteers very busy! 

The Michael Buonora Photograph Collection of the Capital Region

The Michael Buonora Photograph Collection of the Capital Region holds 397 photographs of streets and neighborhoods taken around Albany and the surrounding communities by various photographers from the early 1900s to the mid-1950s. These were collected by Albany-native Michael Buonora, who was interested in photographs that spoke to the overall beauty of the region and the livelihoods of its people.  

The Morris Gerber Collection

The Morris Gerber Collection is another very large collection of over 10,000 images ranging in date from the 1870s-1970s, with  the majority of the images dating from the first half of the 20th CenturyGerber was a typesetter for the Times-Unionand his assembled collection includes materials from the archives of Albany photographers Stephen Schreiber and William Klein, along with several other photographers, as well as discards from the Albany, NY newspaper Knickerbocker News morgue and purchases. This collection is organized primarily into series of Street Views and Subjects, with additional images acquired by the Library in 1983. 

The Photograph Albums

The collection of Photograph Albums includes photograph albums acquired by the Library from families, institutions, and businesses in Albany and the surrounding area, mostly dating from the mid to late 19th Century to the 1970s. While some of these albums have associated manuscript collections, for others, the album is the sole representation of the collection. Some of these are intimate family albums, while others depict specific events or industrial buildings. 
Prominent Woman Suffragists: Inscribed bottom of photograph: Miss E. Brannan-Miss J. Schneiderman-Mrs. M.S. Smith-Mrs. John Rogers-Miss E. Mayer, circa 1912 (from Albany Scenes and Events, PA 81)
Prominent Woman Suffragists: Inscribed bottom of photograph: Miss E. Brannan-Miss J. Schneiderman-Mrs. M.S. Smith-Mrs. John Rogers-Miss E. Mayer, circa 1912 (from Albany Scenes and Events, PA 81)

The Photograph Collections

The Photograph Collections (click on Photographs, then see Institution, Family, and Photographer Collections) includes photograph collections that have been acquired by the Library. At one point in our past, as with many other libraries, materials were separated by type and placed in different areas. As with the Photograph Albums, some photograph collections also have associated manuscript collections, while other collections are only made up of photographs. Many of these collections are from families or individuals, but quite a few are from local photographers and artists as well.  
Tintype image of Rosennah Vosburgh or Anna Vosburgh, 22 December 1871 (from the Cased Photo Collection, PC 30)
Tintype image of Rosennah Vosburgh or Anna Vosburgh, 22 December 1871 (from the Cased Photo Collection, PC 30)

As always, please contact us with any questions, and stay tuned for our next post in this series, Part III: Maps. 

9 April 2020