Yale to catalogue old photos

In the coming months, the archivists poring through the University’s vast collection of photographs will unearth stills from Yale’s storied past.

The University received a $64,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Program for Museums and Art Conservation that will enable the creation of a directory cataloguing photographs from departments across campus. The head of the Yale Library’s Preservation Department, Roberta Pilette, said the overhaul of the library’s collections will enable the University to rediscover valuable photos in unexpected places.

“We’re hoping to uncover a lot of hidden gems,” she said.

While the museums and libraries are obvious resources, Pilette said the athletic department is an “untapped source” of information. She noted that pictures of fans cheering at atheltic events may shed light on the fashions of the time period photographed.

The catalogue will reveal primary source material that will be beneficial to academic research, Deputy Provost of the Arts Barbara Shailor said. The directory will also include pictures from Yale’s student groups, including the Dramat and Glee Club.

The cataloguing process will begin with an electronic survey, in which departments will characterize their photo collections. Shailor said the directory will not only facilitate academic research, but will help them to identify problems with the conservation of the materials.

“I think the survey is going to reveal more primary resource materials than we think we have,” she said. “But old photographs can be extremely vulnerable, and I believe that ultimately our goal will be to conserve the materials so for the next 400 years we’ll still have them.”

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