British photographic history

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Archive: NYTimes's Treasure House of Photographs

The New York Times didn’t always use photographs to its best advantage, as it only first published an illustrated Sunday magazine in 1896. But since then it has built up a true treasure house of photographs with a staggering five million to six million prints and contact sheets (each sheet, of course, representing many discrete images) and 300,000 sacks of negatives, ranging in format size from 35 millimeter to 5 by 7 inches — at least 10 million frames in all.

The picture archive also includes 13,500 DVDs, each storing about 4.7 gigabytes worth of imagery. When the Museum of Modern Art set out to exhibit the highlights of the Times archive in 1996, it dispatched four curators. They spent nine months poring over 3,000 subjects, working with two Times editors, one of whom spent a year on the project. In the end, they estimated that they’d seen only one-quarter of the total.

They have now started to post them onto Tumblr bit by bit. This is because if they posted 10 new archival pictures every weekday on Tumblr, just from their print collection, they wouldn’t have the whole thing online until the year 3935!

You can see the first few ones here.

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