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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Images from Personal Papers

In many cases where a substantial amount of pictorial material arrives in the Manuscript Division with an individual's personal papers, the images are transferred to the Prints and Photographs Division. As with material from an organization's records, such images frequently lack identification but may be revealing not only of the individual whose activities and proclivities they reflect, but also of the individual's social milieu.

Nannie Helen Burroughs and others, group portrait at the National Training School, Washington, D.C. About 1909. Visual Materials from the Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Some examples of significant images found in manuscript collections include:

  • Clara Barton Papers (600 items, 1863-1946) include carte-de-visite portraits of families in her social circle. Although not all of the individuals are identified, the images are valuable for the record they provide of styles of studio portraiture depicting members of the upper middle class in the 1860s. Barton's papers also include images documenting relief activities in the United States, Cuba, and Europe carried out by the Red Cross, the organization with which Barton was so long associated.
  • Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers (550 items, 1910-58) document the students and activities of the school for African American girls that she founded in Washington, D.C., in 1909, including a photo album compiled by one of her students, Alice Smith. The visual material also documents Burroughs's involvement in Baptist philanthropic activities and her missionary activities in Liberia and in Malawi.
  • Margaret Sanger Papers (63 items, ca. 1900-1965; LOT 13246) include images documenting her acquaintances and concerns and picture scattered scenes from her life. The collection includes informal portraits of Sanger and also:
    • her family, and associates
    • activities of various birth control advocacy organizations
    • photographic views of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb explosion
  • Blackwell Family Papers (165 items, ca. 1850-1920) depict members of the family as well as women and men prominent in the National American Women Suffrage Association. The materials include lantern slides used in a lecture about the history of women's suffrage. Maud Wood Park used a portion of this lecture in 1939 to commemorate Carrie Chapman Catt's eightieth birthday. (Other Blackwell family images remain in the Manuscript Division.)
  • Clare Booth Luce Papers (3,800 items, ca. 1890-1981) include many photo albums from her ambassadorship in Italy, portraits of Luce and her friends, and a few posters relating to productions of her play The Women.

Searching the Collections

The principal pointers to groups of images from personal papers collections are:

  • References in Manuscript Division finding aids point users of an individual's papers to associated visual materials transferred to the Prints and Photographs Division, although occasionally some visual items also remain with the written records.
  • Prints & Photographs Online Catalog contains records for groups of images from personal collections and, in some cases, for single items. The latter are generally accompanied by digitized images. For instance, the online catalog includes the following:
    • Margaret Sanger Papers—a description of the entire collection and of single items for which copy negatives or transparencies exist
    • Blackwell Family Papers—a description of the entire collection and of single items for which copy negatives or transparencies exist. An unpublished finding aid listing names of people depicted in portraits is available in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room (filed under call number)
    • Clare Booth Luce Papers—a description of the entire collection and of single items for which copy negatives or transparencies exist; an unpublished finding aid providing a more detailed overview of the collection and listing folder categories within each LOT is available in the Prints and Photographs Division Reading Room

The division has not had an opportunity to organize and describe all materials transferred to it from other divisions. Advance notice is required to view material that is unprocessed because the materials are frequently stored off site and require staff assistance, at least initially, to view. Descriptions of the unprocessed groups can be found in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Further Information

The following links provide access to digitized materials (via search results), descriptions of collections (catalog records), finding aids, and other ways to access visual materials from manuscript collections, primarily through the Print and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC).

Collection Descriptions in PPOC

PPOC Search Results for Groups of Visual Materials

Sample Images