Constructing the Transcontinental Railroad: The Digital Photographic Archive

Glenn Willumson, School of Art & Art History;  Richard Freeman, Smathers Libraries

Supported by a library mini-grant, this project is a collaborative venture between the library and the School of Arts and Art History to make the photographs of the construction of the first transcontinental railroad available to the public.  Professor Glenn Willumson digitized the original large-format (10 x 13 inch) glass-plate negatives made, by Andrew Russell, photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868 and 1869.  Richard Freeman, University of Florida’s anthropology librarian, oversaw the creation of the website, which makes approximately 190 of his 240 photographs widely available for the first time.  Equally important, the website will be dynamic, encouraging interactivity with its viewers in hopes of gathering knowledge associated with the photographs–about photography, railroad technology, the mid-19th century West, the growth of cities, the extent of Russell’s documentation, and the location missing photographs from this body of work.  It is hoped this digital photographic archive will be a first step in a larger digital project that will make the almost 1000 stereographs of the railroad construction available to the public and prove to be a model for future collaborative efforts on campus and with users throughout the world.

Categories: Archives, Collaboration, Crowdsourcing, Libraries |

About Richard Freeman

I am currently the anthropology librarian at the University of Florida. I am also an anthropologist, specializing in political anthropology, Latin America, and visual anthropology. My first degree (and love) is cinema and photography. This job allows me to tap into all these interests!

2 Responses to Constructing the Transcontinental Railroad: The Digital Photographic Archive

  1. Thanks for this great project. Would it be possible for us to play around with the website? Do you need any user testing? From the abstract, it’s not clear at what stage the project is, but you can put us all to work as needed.

  2. Thanks Sophia, as of now the website is not together. Not sure what will be done by the camp.

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