Category Archives: photographs

three fun (and free!) library/archives ipad apps

I’ve only had my iPad for a few months, but it’s interesting to see how I actually use it now versus how I thought I’d use it.  I definitely thought I would use a larger number (and variety) of apps than I actually do.  I blame this on lack of time due to grad school, but really it’s out of habit.  Just like when I go to my favorite restaurants, I can’t help but order the same few dishes — because I know what I like and I don’t want to “waste” my money on something that isn’t as good.  Or when a favorite band releases a new album — if it doesn’t capture me the first couple times I listen to it, chances are I’m going to choose the older tried-and-true albums over the new one every time (I’m talking about you, Iron and Wine).

But I’ve become more adventurous these days, so here are three very cool — and very free — iPad apps that I’ve been playing around with.  I can’t wait for more to come out!  Please share if you know of any other apps worth checking out.

Biblion: The Boundless Library
New York Public Library

Right now, the app is focused on the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, but I think future “issues” of Biblion will focus on a variety of other collections.

19th Century Historical Collection
British Library

Read (or skim) over 1,000 nineteenth-century books for free!  The book scans look great, and I foresee this app distracting me for many hours to come.  Later this summer, over 60,000 books will be made available for a not-yet-released price.


Today’s Document
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Also available on Android devices and iPhones, this app features a different archival document every day.  A few days ago, the featured document was the oath of allegiance signed by Marquis de Lafayette.  Later this week, it will be the Watergate building’s security officer log from June 17, 1972.

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in archives, photographs, pop culture


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what’s missing from fashion archives? women of color

One of my favorite blogs out there right now is Of Another Fashion, brought to you by the bloggers of Threadbared.  Of Another Fashion posts vintage and archival photos of stylish women of color in the United States, creating a digital archive that provides a perspective largely missing from mainstream fashion archives and exhibits.  The photos posted are from archives, other online sources, and public submissions.

This blog is particularly inspirational to me for a few reasons.  Foremost, the blog’s purpose is to highlight and share photographs that have a rich yet overlooked history.  Most of the photos’ subjects aren’t of models, but your everyday average woman.  Another key element of the blog is that it actively seeks contributions from the public — not only to post but with the larger goal of creating an actual exhibit.  Many of the photos shared are from family albums, which I think adds a richer narrative to the fashion record.  In the creators’ own words:

In providing a glimpse of women of color’s material cultural histories — a glimpse that no doubt only begins to redress the curatorial and critical absence of minoritized fashion histories — this archive and the forthcoming exhibition commemorates lives and experiences too often considered not important enough to save or to study.

This idea links directly to Rand Jimerson’s point about the power of archives and archivists (which I’ve written about previously).  In determining which histories, experiences, and narratives are preserved in archival institutions (and the context given of those materials), we greatly influence the cultural record and memory.  Archivists have a responsibility to ensure diversity in the archival record, and Of Another Fashion is a great example to look towards.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in archives, diversity, links, photographs



discovering vivian maier

Photography by Vivian Maier


Articles have been circulating about street photographer Vivian Maier, whose work (pictured above) was only discovered after her death in 2009.  I’m interested in Maier not only because I like her photography, but because I find the story of her discovery captivating.  If you haven’t already heard the story, the basic gist is that back in 2007 John Maloof bought about 30,000 of Maier’s negatives in an auction, hoping to find photographs of Portage Park for a Chicago history book he was co-writing.  Maloof didn’t uncover Maier’s name until more than a year later, and when he googled her found that she had passed away just days earlier.

Since then Maloof has acquired a collection of 100,000 Maier negatives, in addition to other personal belongings, and posts some of these photographs on his blog.  Not too much is known about Maier’s background, as she was rather private about her personal history, but we know that she worked as a nanny while photographing on the side.  For more details, read this Chicago Magazine article.  This website by another collector also features her photography.

The story of Maier’s discovery demonstrates how the new — technology — helps us explore the old, which is a theme running through one of my classes this semester (History of Books and Libraries).  One of my goals while working in archives is to discover previously untold stories and share them.  While I often enjoy learning the details of a person’s life, I have to ask questions about privacy (especially when one has passed away recently) — would Maier, who preferred her life to remain private, appreciate people trying to uncover her past?  Should we just enjoy her work without digging into her history?

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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in photographs, privacy


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