I spent today trying to track down some news photographs for a project. Checking copyright assignment, getting clearance for reproduction rights, that sort of thing.
I’ve traced the majority of the of the images I need, but what disturbed me as I searched was how difficult a relatively straightforward task has become.
In one case, a newspaper has changed ownership so many times in the last decade and a half that they no longer have an archive. Too many recent digital images have been lost as computer systems were changed again and again, and as for the older negatives, well, they’re probably in a warehouse somewhere, mislabeled during a move to a cheaper office. Among the images lost to posterity are the only images of the funeral of a prominent political figure.
In a second case, the libraries were intact, but not indexed, which makes searches next to impossible. I’m still waiting for the results of a third search, because the library is understaffed.
There’s a photo in my home of my home parish, taken in the 1890s, one of over forty thousand in the Lawrence collection.
I have to wonder how many modern libraries will survive for a century.