Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Big Orange: California Citrus Label Art

The California Historical Society created an exhibition of images of orange crate lithographs. In the 1880s, orange growers began collaborating with lithographers to create bright, eye-catching labels for their wooden crates of oranges. These lithographers began mostly making labels for wine but as the citrus industry took off in California, more lithographers began to work on designs for orange crates.

This exhibition was created in 2001 and, as a result, lacks some of the features we've seen in more recent digitization initiatives. The images are cool but there is absolutely no metadata to speak of. Thirty-five lithography companies worked on labels for orange crates but none of the images indicate which company created which image or what year they were created. As a historical society, it is not surprising perhaps that the site does a fine job of giving the historical context but does not provide data for specific images. Additionally, the images themselves are only available as thumbnails and one larger size. There is no way to zoom in further after selecting the larger sized image.

Finally, there is little information on how these particular images were chosen. It's clear that the exhibition is far from being a comprehensive sample of the lithographs made during this 70 year period but there is not explanation of why these images are digitized and not others. The historical explanation does thank three institutions for contributing so perhaps they simply digitized the materials available from these three places.

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