Thursday, March 5, 2009

Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Los Angels Public Library Photo Collection

Office Map

Over 60,000 photographs are available on the Los Angeles Public Library’s online photo collection. However, there are thousands more images not posted on the web. The Security Pacific National Bank contributed 250,00 historical photographs which the library broke down into three main sub collections and five smaller groups. There are also images included from the library’s Shades of L.A. archive, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Photograph Collection, and the library’s own collection that stems from before World War II that grew to around 13,00 images by the 1950’s.

The collection offers no way of viewing all of the images together or selecting them by sight; instead, there’s just a search function broken down by keyword, photographer, and the ability to limit options by date. There’s a link to a page offering tips for searching, but no offered list of keywords that accompany many other online collections. This leaves it up to the user to figure out what they’re looking for which could be frustrating for more casual browsers. Included on the main page are also links to order, license or ask questions. On the FAQ page there’s a lot of information regarding purchasing prints and their delivery.

I typed in “Silver Lake” in the search engine and chose “Poetry reading in Laundromat, Sunset Junction Street Fair.” The metadata is standard; the most interesting elements were description and subjects. The description element provided a solid paragraph of context for the photo and the list of subjects were hyperlinks which allowed you to find other photos with similar content, alleviating some of the need to think of your own keywords. At the top of the page for each image was the option to move on to the previous or next photograph. There is no option to zoom in on any of the photos and there is only one size larger than the offered thumbnail that can be seen by clicking on the photo itself.

The photos and their descriptions in this collection are of good quality and would be useful to anyone doing a project on Southern California or Los Angeles or anyone interested in finding more out more about the history and culture of the particular region of the state. Though it doesn’t say it on the site, it can be inferred that the library began their digitization project years ago considering the amount of photos they’ve digitized as well as the limitations in zooming and enlarging them. Strangely, it is stated on the FAQ page that patrons are able to search the collection but not browse it and it isn’t explained why. Though there are limitations in the usability of this collection, the amount of images contained and their descriptions remain impressive.

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