& Digitization Project
The Library Company’s 1982 Annual Report declared that the Print Department’s holdings had doubled since the mid-1960s move into the Locust Street building, and to accommodate that growth in 1984 the department expanded its physical space on the second floor. An open terrace was filled in to create curatorial office space, and 200 new shelves and drawers housed the growing collection.
The Print Department commemorated its first decade of collecting with the 1983 exhibition and catalog Philadelphia ReVisions. From architectural drawings for Pennsylvania’s State Capitol building to a Thomas Eakins motion study photograph to a large lithograph of horse-drawn vehicles racing through the streets of Philadelphia, the exhibition celebrated the diversity and strength of the Library Company’s graphic collections. The photography collection in particular continued to expand greatly with the acquisition of several large collections. In 1982, for example, we acquired more than 500 photographs by Philadelphia photographer and painter George Bacon Wood from a descendant. Additional gifts of Wood photographs throughout the 1980s increased the collection by about 300 more images. This body of photographic work along with paintings from other institutions and private collections will form the basis of a Library Company exhibition in 2014.
Aero Service Corporation. [Philadelphia Museum of Art Under Construction], Digital scan from original glass negative. Philadelphia, ca. 1926. Gift of Virgil S. Kauffman.
In 1983, the Print Department received a donation of almost 4,000 aerial images taken primarily during the 1920s and 1930s by the Aero Service Corporation, a firm based in Philadelphia. Although Aero Service photographic planes flew all over the United States, our acquisition focused on Pennsylvania and New Jersey locations, including views of the Jersey shore, educational institutions, businesses and industries, and waterfront views of Philadelphia. In 2008, with funding from the Abington Foundation and the Ed Lee and Jean Campe Foundation, we began cataloging and digitizing parts of this collection. More than 650 original Aero Service negatives have been scanned and can now be seen with their catalog records on our digital catalog, ImPAC.
The Print Department’s burgeoning photographic collection supported two of the department’s important initiatives during the decade. In November 1988, the Library Company opened the exhibition Philadelphia: Then and Now, which displayed 19th- and early-20th-century photographs from the collection juxtaposed with contemporary photographs of the same sites taken by Assistant Curator Susan Oyama. Over 8,000 copies of the accompanying book sold within the first two months of publication, demonstrating the enormous popularity of the project.
In addition to a Print Department exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of photography in 1989, the department also co-sponsored a 1990 exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Legacy of Light: Photographic Treasures from Philadelphia Area Public Collections. Curator Kenneth Finkel organized that exhibition, which drew on the rich photographic collections of 35 area institutions ad included this ca. 1842 daguerreotype of an unidentified man by Robert Cornelius, one of 17 items lent by the Library Company.
In 1985 the Library Company’s Annual Report mentioned in passing the purchase of a computer for the Print Department with funds from the Arcadia Foundation. With this computer we began the creation of electronic catalog cards for our graphics. Although it would be years until our online catalogs supplanted our trusty card catalog, the seeds of the technological revolution had been planted.