William L. Clements Library

Photographs

About

The photographic collection of the Clements Library represents American photography from its earliest days in the 1840s into the 20th century. Strengths of the collection include travel, war, leisure, friendship, domesticity, portraiture, politics, theater, landscape, urban views, architecture, industry, lumbering, mining, agriculture, and vernacular photography in general. Michigan images and the work of Michigan photographers has become a major strength with the progressive acquisition of the David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography.

Major 19th century photographers represented in the collection include George N. Barnard, Félice Beato, Mathew Brady, Thomas M. Easterly, Francis Frith, Alexander Gardner, William Henry Jackson, John Moran, Eadweard Muybridge, William Notman, Timothy O'Sullivan, John Plumbe, Andrew J. Russell, Charles R. Savage, William Henry Fox Talbot, Carleton Watkins, and George Washington Wilson. The 20th century holdings include representative works by influential photographers from Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Eugene Smith, to Marilyn Bridges, Marion Post Wolcott, and Weegee. Excellent examples of virtually every significant photographic format of the first century of photography are represented.

History of the Collection

Family photographs and albums linked to manuscript collections formed the original core of the photo collection. Critically important photographs of the Civil War published by Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner came with the collection of James S. Schoff in the 1970s. Later Civil War acquisitions included Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign, the massive album by George Barnard. The purchase of significant individual prints and albums during the 1980s and 1990s greatly expanded the scope of the photographic holdings. Vernacular albums became a specialty and the collection now holds over 400. The collection reached a critical mass in 1997 with the donation of the collection of Frederick Currier and Amy McCombs. This diverse collection redefined the scope of the Division. Since 2005, the photograph collection has become the library's fastest growing, expecting to exceed 150,000 images shortly with the addition of the massive collection of David V. Tinder.

Using the Collection

The cataloging of the photograph collection is a work in progress recently begun. A very small portion of the collection's holdings is catalogued in Mirlyn, but most items are available for research at the library. The genre terms "photographs," "photograph albums," and "photographically illustrated books," will locate photographic materials in the Mirlyn catalog. These terms can be used in conjunction with keywords in other search fields.

Within the photograph collection of the Clements are several discrete collections of significance including:

The Mark A. Anderson Collection of Post-Mortem Photography
The Frederick Currier–Amy McCombs Collection
The James S. Schoff Civil War Collections
The David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography