Historic Buildings – A guide to tracking down those pesky elusive images.

I am working on a digital exhibit project that features a historic hotel located in Butler, NJ.  The building itself had been renovated a few times over the years and currently it has been converted into an apartment complex.  I knew from the beginning that I was going to want to feature images of this building throughout its history to showcase the many changes it had gone through over time.  Here are a few tips and tricks that I found helpful when attempting to find images for a project.

The first step that I recommend and one that was a huge success for me is to find and visit the local museum of the town in which the historic site or building is located.  Local museums like the one I visited can sometimes have limited accessibility when it comes to hours so it is best to plan ahead.  I recommend calling the Curator or Administrator and setting up an appointment in which you will potentially be granted access for a few hours at a time.  It also is helpful to let these people know exactly what you are looking for because they may just offer to pull out items for you ahead of time.  Even if it is your first trip to the museum do not forget your camera!  On my first trip the Curator started pulling out a ton of material and boy was I glad to have my camera on me to start digitizing.

Another tip for finding images of a historic site or building is to find a local newspaper and look back into the archive.  The building that I chose for my project had been covered extensively throughout the years in this newspaper.  You will need to get permission of course in order to use the images, but this is usually not an issue.  I was able to find a column that was written for a number of years that primarily had to do with the history of local town sites.  It even had before and after images showing the change over time that many of these locations went through.

Last but not least when looking for images for your project you can use the almighty Internet.  I am sure everyone knows the power of Google and its image search is no joke.  You can start by searching for your historic site or building there as it may quickly return excellent results.  Just be mindful of copyright at all costs.  It may be tempting to just right-click and save that image, but that is stealing.  You must get permission if you want to use this image and obtaining that permission can be as easy as sending a quick email or making a phone call.

By using the tips above I was able to quickly track down a multitude of historic images for my project.  Searching local museums, newspapers, and the Internet turned out to all be quick ways to find quality results.  Hopefully these strategies will also help in making your search easier and more enjoyable.


About dfreeman82

Graduate student of History at William Patterson University.
This entry was posted in Digital History, How To and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Historic Buildings – A guide to tracking down those pesky elusive images.

  1. Ita says:

    Thanks for the tips, very helpful.

  2. Michael R. Freimuth says:

    I never really thought about how the local museum could be such a blessing in hiding. It seems from your story and others I have come across that the people associated with these places are readily available to provide their assistance and expertise for your benefit. Some really interesting local histories can result which collectively might tell a bigger story about New Jersey!

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