Students from the School of Information  teamed up with the New York Times  for a Pratt photography digitization and curation course in Spring 2018 titled Projects in Digital Archives, taught by Anthony Cocciolo, who became Dean of the School of Information in July 2018 after serving as interim dean of the School. 

Students  digitized the analog photographs taken by George Tames, the “Photographer of Presidents,” working with original camera negatives from the 1940s and 1950s, including images of President Harry S. Truman and his White House. Tames covered Washington, DC, as a news photographer for the New York Times from 1945 to 1985, photographing 10 United States presidents as well as many members of Congress and foreign leaders such as Winston Churchill and Nikita Kruschev. He chronicled Washington’s changing political culture over the course of his career. Among his many iconic images is the famous silhouette of President John F. Kennedy, photographed from the back, leaning on the desk of the Oval Office.

Through this project, students became adept at designing and implementing a digital archive, observing the work of a renowned photographer up close, and exploring the landmark moments of the nation from an intimate visual standpoint.

Remarking on why this was a timely collaboration, Cocciolo emphasized that digital curation and archiving are important skills for today’s information and library science professionals. “While so much information is being created today, especially with digital photography, the value that archivists bring is being able to select information of enduring value for preservation, ultimately allowing greater use by researchers, scholars, educators, as well as future generations,” Cocciolo said. “The collection being addressed—a small part of Tames’ total output for the Times—provides a snapshot of the world following the end of the Second World War, including the emergence of the Cold War and nuclear anxiety—an anxiety that is still very much with us in 2018,” he added.

The semester  concluded with an online exhibition of the digital images, ready for use by New York Times editors, as well as a physical exhibition that was on display at #infoshow18 at Pratt Manhattan Center as part of Pratt Shows, an annual series of year-end shows that offers the public an opportunity to experience the work of Pratt Institute’s graduating class each spring.

Image: Alexander Vastola, MSLIS ’19, a student in the Projects in Digital Archives class, examines a George Tames photograph of President Truman that has just been digitized

Updated: November 14, 2018