The University of Cincinnati Libraries have created a website and digital archive that provides access to the historic Cincinnati subway and street images, a collection of over 8,000 photographic negatives and prints taken as part of a failed subway development project in the 1920s, and photographs documenting various street projects from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Available at http://digital.libraries.uc.edu/subway/, the “Cincinnati Subway and Street Improvements, 1916-1955” website includes construction images as well as both interior and exterior shots of private residences and city scenes. In addition to providing access to the historic prints and photographs, the website also documents the story of the failed subway project and includes a construction map with linked images.
“The main goal of this project was to digitize and make freely accessible on the web this comprehensive collection of photographs and negatives detailing the urban development of Cincinnati during the first half of the 20th century,” said Kevin Grace, head of the Archives and Rare Books Library and co-leader of the digitization project.
The Cincinnati subway and street improvements photographic negatives and prints are part of the Archives and Rare Books Library’s Ohio Network Collection in the state’s Local Government Records Program, a diverse body of materials that document official government activity from the 18th to the 21st centuries. The Cincinnati subway and street changes archive, which also includes construction reports, householders’ damage claims, blueprints, minutes, photographs and correspondence in addition to the negatives and prints, is used by researchers and students studying urban planning and development, the history of Cincinnati, American history, civil engineering and political science.
“Due to the deteriorating state of the negatives, this collection was also selected for digitization in order to preserve the information contained in extremely fragile prints and negatives and to provide greater accessibility to all images within the collection,” said Linda Newman, head of Digital Collections and Repositories and co-leader of the digitization project.
The photographs and negatives available on the website provide a visual reference of the transformation of Cincinnati during the 1920s, a period of social and economic hardship during which the city experienced progress and growth. The subway construction images follow the progress being made in sections along the subway route, including the grand Central Parkway, while the series of before-and-after street improvement images document the development of new neighborhoods as the city grew and expanded. This collection is the only complete source for information on this aspect of Cincinnati’s urban development during this period of time.
The funding to digitize the collection for online access was made possible through a grant-based project through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), a program funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and administered through the State Library of Ohio. The digitization project and creation of the website was a group effort that involved numerous people including Angela Vanderbilt, Suzanne Maggard, Nathan Tallman and Eira Tansey who worked on the creation of the website, and Steve Marine and Jennifer Burke on grant oversight.