Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NYT Begins Sharing Gems From its Morgue

Lucky for us, The New York Times is "eager to share historical riches that have been locked away from public view" and has just launched a new blog to help it do just that.

The Lively Morgue, as it is called, is going to feature historic photographs from the Times' sizable collection. Did I say sizable? I mean gi-normous. Here's their own description of the collection's parameters:

How many? We don’t know. Our best guess is five million to six million prints and contact sheets (each sheet, of course, representing many discrete images) and 300,000 sacks of negatives...The picture archive also includes 13,500 DVDs, each storing about 4.7 gigabytes worth of imagery. When the Museum of Modern Art set out to exhibit the highlights of the Times archive in 1996, it dispatched four curators. They spent nine months poring over 3,000 subjects, working with two Times editors, one of whom spent a year on the project. In the end, they estimated that they’d seen only one-quarter of the total. If we posted 10 new archival pictures every weekday on Tumblr, just from our print collection, we wouldn’t have the whole thing online until the year 3935.

(And in case you don't know, a newspaper morgue was not where clippings and photos went to die, but where they went so they could be found again. It's a useful reference system in which clippings are organized by subject headings so past stories on a person or subject can quickly be located.)

Photos on The Lively Morgue include the original caption that ran when it was published and links to relevant stories. The Times is also including an image of the back of each photo, which often contained a lot of information, like exactly when and where it was published, who the photographer was, how much they were paid, and whether the photo was one of a series.

While only the tip of the iceberg of this massive collection will be posted in our lifetime, Brooklyn Before Now will certainly be checking in on this welcome new trove of historic images.

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