Saving History Saturday: Historic Photograph Collection Moves To Tufts Archive

What happens to historic photographs after they have digitized? Where do they preserved and saved? The answers vary, of course, but last week Tufts Digital Collections and Archives announced a partnership with the Medford Historical Society and Museum to save and safety store thousands of Civil War images. It’s good news for New England and researchers everywhere!

Back in 1990, the photographs had been discovered in the museum attic: 3,693 photographs from the 1860’s! Collected by General Samuel Crocker Lawrence, these images had been left as part of Medford’s history, just waiting to be rediscovered. The New England Document Conservation Center helped with the initial preservation process which allowed the images to be scanned, inventoried, and prepared for exhibitions. The Boston Public Library digitized the photographs and made them available online.

A group of Union soldiers in their canvas tent while a comrade guards the rampart of a captured Confederate bastion in the defenses of Atlanta. Photo: Courtesy of the Medford Historical Society & Museum

Now that the historic photos were publicly accessible for research, what would happen to the originals? For years, they were fated to storage in a filing cabinet.

But that has changed and the historic collection will be housed, conserved, and protected at Tufts, which is also partnering to maintain other Civil War artifacts from the local museum. According to the press release, “Daniel Santamaria, director of Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, emphasized that the Medford Historical Society and Museum retains ownership of the collections, while the archival program and environment at Tufts introduces opportunities for scholarly access as well as first-rate security and preservation measures.”

The photography collection includes images created by George Bernard, Andrew Russell, and photographers who worked in Matthew Brady’s studios.

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