Historical Society of Pennsylvania Posts More Than 18,000 Digital Images Online

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More than 18,000 images of items in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s collection are now searchable online through HSP’s recently launched “Digital Library”—and the image collection is expected to more than double in the next year.

The database, which went live in April, is accessible at http://digitallibrary.hsp.org or through the Society’s website at www.hsp.org. Using the Digital Library, visitors can search and browse through the Society’s ever-growing collection of digitized documents, including photographs, maps, artwork, letters, diaries, and ephemera, as well as archived video and audio records. Visitors can also magnify images and learn more about each one, such as its creator and date and how to access the material at HSP.

This initial phase of the Digital Library focused in large part on HSP’s Civil War-related collections, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the war. Archivists examined 52 Civil War-related collections and selected key images from each to display in the Digital Library. Among the items are about 3,000 Civil War-related graphics and manuscripts including selected papers of President James Buchanan, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, General George Meade, General A. A. Humphreys, financier Jay Cooke, and 2,000 watercolors and related works by the self-taught artist David Kennedy.

Last month, HSP was awarded an $80,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities* to continue growing its Digital Library. The latest grant will allow HSP archivists to preserve, organize, and digitize 21 collections pertaining to immigration and ethnicity from the Philadelphia region. During this one-year project, which begins this month, HSP staff will add an estimated 18,000 images to the Digital Library. The collections selected for this project have high research value and document diverse ethnic groups across more than 300 years, from German settlers and enslaved Africans during the colonial period to African, Arab, Greek, Latino, and South Asian immigrants of recent decades.

Collections include beautifully illustrated early German American hymnbooks, orderly books from German battalions during the Revolutionary War, photographs of Japanese immigrants who were detained in internment camps during World War II, and genealogical records from Italian families who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. All collections will receive conservation treatments as needed, including cleaning, humidifying and flattening, mending, and the creation of custom enclosures.