UVa Library Press Releases 1997 - 1998
U.VA. LIBRARY GIVES HOLIDAY GIFT TO CHARLOTTESVILLE:
A DIGITIZED ARCHIVE OF HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS
Contact: Edward Gaynor, director of the Special Collections Digital Center at (804) 924-3138 or e-mail: email@example.com
December 16, 1997 - The University of Virginia Library has placed thousands of historic photographs of Charlottesville and Albemarle County and of turn-of-the-century white and African-American residents on the World Wide Web, where the images are freely available to all for non-profit use and research. The pictures are from the library's Holsinger Studio Collection, a unique photographic record of life in Charlottesville and the surrounding area from the late 19th century into the 1920s.
Most of the approximately 9,000 dry-plate glass-negative images from the commercial studio of Rufus W. Holsinger have never been displayed publicly and only about 100 have been published, said Edward Gaynor, associate director of the library's Special Collections Department. Some of photos are well-known, such as those of the University Rotunda before, during and after its disastrous fire in 1895. But many others, including most of nearly 500 important studio portraits of African-American residents, have been rarely viewed.
"It's an invaluable archive of community life. We hope it will be used and enjoyed not only locally but by anyone researching individual or family histories or small-town southern life in that era," Gaynor said.
Approximately two-thirds of the images are studio portraits of local residents and families. There are also many scenes and events from the community and the University of Virginia, including historic parades and fires, the first automobile and airplane in Charlottesville, sports events, homes and buildings, exhibitions, and even train wrecks. One of the most historic Holsinger photos is a portrait of artist Georgia O'Keefe, who lived for a time on Wertland Avenue and taught art at U.Va. early in her career.
The collection is available on the World Wide Web in an online
searchable database at
Users can search for images of Charlottesville, the University, individuals and events by performing a full-text search on the descriptive data associated with each image. In addition, the database provides searches that will retrieve all images in the collection on the following topics: African-Americans, Charlottesville, University of Virginia and World War I.
The collection was digitized by the library's Special Collections Digital Center with funding from several local businesses, foundations and individuals (listed below). Culminating an 18 month effort to put the photos in a searchable electronic format, the project will help to preserve the collection's fragile glass plates while simultaneously making the photographs available on a world wide scale. Photographic prints and high-resolution digital images are also available for reproduction for a small fee.
Rufus W. Holsinger came to Charlottesville from Pennsylvania by way of Manassas in the late 1880s, to establish a photographic business. His "University Studio" at 719-721 West Main St. soon became the leading studio in town, with a reputation for first-quality work. Holsinger himself served at various times as president and treasurer of the Photographic Association of Virginia and the Carolinas and as treasurer of the Photographers' Association of America. He was a long-time member of the City Council, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and an organizer and director of the National Bank of Charlottesville.
After his death in 1930, the studio was owned and operated by his son, Ralph W. Holsinger Jr., who moved it in 1935 to its familiar location at 908 West Main. Upon the son's retirement in 1969, the studio passed from the hands of the Holsinger family, and the business ceased operation in 1977.
A studio fire in 1912 destroyed the early business ledgers and some egatives. Those negatives surviving the fire range in size from 5-by-11 o 14-by-17 inches. The Holsinger Studio Collection was acquired by the Unversity in 1978 through contributions made by the Alumni Association and an anonymous donor.
Funding for placing the collection on the World Wide Web came from he Perry Foundation of Charlottesville, Charlottesville-Albemarle Foundation, Associates of the University of Virginia Library, John Allan Love Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. J. Wallace Sieg, Jefferson National Bank, John J. Owen, University of Virginia Alumni Association, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Crestar Bank, and Beirne Carter Foundation of Richmond.
For additional information, or to obtain prints or high-resolution files for a story on the collection, contact Edward Gaynor at the U.Va. Library at (804) 924 3138 or contact the Special Collections Department at firstname.lastname@example.org