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Research Guides

Historical Visual Materials Collections: Photographs

This guide lists a variety of research materials such as photographs, architectural plans, postcards, historical maps, artwork and ephemera.

About the Photograph Collection

Over 1,000,000 documentary images mainly covering an extensive geographical area, in particular the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and the Yukon. There are also photographs of other areas of the United States and other countries. There are also many materials for the study of photography including historical formats such as glass lantern slides, photographic postcards, daguerreotype, tintypes, ambrotypes, cyanotypes and other unusual formats. The collection also contains many books, pamphlets, and ephemera on historical photographic processes.  Such topics as Native Americans, fishing and logging industries, mountaineering, the Klondike gold rush, and theatre and vaudeville are well represented in this extensive research collection.

Also included are the works of early notable Washington Territory and regional photographers such as Edward S. Curtis, Asahel Curtis, Eric. A. Hegg, and Clark Kinsey. Their images chronicle the events and daily lives of the people who contributed to the development and character of this region. Examples of materials in this collection include black-and-white photographic prints and negatives, glass lantern slides, and 35mm film color slides, along with unusual and rare photographic formats, such as stereocards and daguerrotypes.

Search for Visual Materials

Visual materials collections can be found in a variety of ways and in multiple locations:

Finding Aids for Photographs

Finding aids for special collections materials are housed in a regional fining aid repository called ArchivesWest. When searching in ArchivesWest, be sure to limit your search by repository, "University of Washington Libraries Special Collections," or you will end up with results from universities and museums from all over the Pacific Northwest.

Digital Collections

Over 60 digitized collections comprising over 55,000 digital images from Special Collections holdings. Materials include photographs, maps, newspapers, posters, and other media.

Pacific Northwest Photographers Database

This database is a listing of photographers who operated in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska during the period from about the 1870s to 1935. It provides information regarding the photographers name and the city, state and year that the photographer had an established business. In some cases, it includes the studio address. Most of the information in this database was extracted from city directories and vertical files held in Special Collections.

Photographers Reference File

An assembled collection that originated from the personal files of Robert Monroe, former head of Special Collections, and has been added to over time. The collection provides research and background information about photographers, mainly those who worked in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The files contain an assortment of documentation such as obituaries, film envelopes (with studio locations), photographer's number catalogues, correspondence, magazine and newspaper articles, exhibition programs, and general ephemera. This collection provides researchers with contextual information about the photographers.