With the advent of photography in 1839, the academic community quickly recognized the value of the new medium. At Yale University photographs became an essential resource supporting undergraduate and graduate studies as well as research by an international community of scholars. Today these collections cover broad geographic areas illustrating an encyclopedic range of subjects in the sciences, humanities, and arts. A 2010 survey supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation uncovered 82 Yale collections holding more than 3.8 million photographs.
Most collections reflect the specialized collecting interests of a particular repository. Photographs may illustrate research at Yale and elsewhere, the history of departments and programs, or the history of individuals (professors, alumni, and others) associated with Yale and their activities worldwide. In many cases, images can be found with related supporting materials such as research journals, field notes, correspondence, and personal papers. A significant percentage of these holdings are considered unique, span the history of the medium, and include works by preeminent photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
A Directory of Yale Photographic Collections provides a portal through which to mine the breadth of the University’s images across repositories and disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of these resources opens the possibility for endless discoveries of images illustrating sweeping applications of the medium and at the same time presents exciting avenues for the creative use of photographs in object-based learning.
Adapted from Photographs at Yale: The Emergence of a Collective Identity by Melissa Banta