Thanks to the McLean County Museum of History, which took on more than a million Pantagraph negatives several years ago and, with public and private partners, turned them from decaying celluloid to pristine digital files that can be viewed at the Illinois Digital Archives’s web site: idaillinois.org.
In the early 1930s, Pantagraph staffers started making 4-by-5-inch negatives with Speed Graphic cameras and “kept basically everything,” said Photo Editor David Proeber. That started the archive that the museum is now digitizing, beginning with 36,641 photos from 1933 to 1944.
Civilian Conservation Corps recruits pose outside the Bloomington Post Office on March 29, 1934. This photo and 37,000 others were restored from negatives by McLean County Museum of History and partners.
FRANK BILL, PANTAGRAPH COLLECTION, MCLEAN COUNTY MUSEUM OF HISTORY
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That process took seven months but produced a database identifying more than 5,500 individual people across 22 Illinois counties.
“We want to encourage people to print them at home, use them in family photos, use them in school papers,” said Adam Lovell, the museum’s executive director, noting each image has a McLean County Museum of History watermark designed to be unobtrusive. “Every classroom in the county has some kind of internet access. … There’s nothing like actually seeing the people and things that went on.”
You can read a lot more about this digitization effort and also see some example photographs in an article by Derek Beigh in the Pantagraph.com web site at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190923.