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A Collection Comes to Light

Providence Public Library
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Problem Statement

There were three problems to be addressed in the glass negatives project. The first was how to appropriately preserve the collection of glass plate negatives held by the library. Secondly was how to provide access to the images on those slides. The third problem was how to how to adequately preserve other items as well in the Special Collections Department at a time of budget constraints.


The innovation is a partnership between the Providence Public Library and a community dark room/arts & culture agency that would solve the problems noted in the Problem Statement above, as well as to generate revenue to establish a preservation fund.

A Collection Comes to Light is a new partnership between the Providence Public Library Special Collections Department and the Paul S. Krot Community Darkroom at AS220. The end goal is to offer for sale various types of photographic prints from a collection of glass plate negatives held by the library, to generate revenue for both parties. To that end, volunteers are cleaning, labeling, digitizing, and archivally housing each negative, and planning to mount an online catalog of the images from which customers can order prints. The photographs range widely in subject, but are all related to new England between 1890 and 1920.


This project is not yet totally completed. To date, we have processed and photographed over six hundred glass negative slides. The project has generated good press (especially within the Providence arts community), and has also led to an increase in volunteers in the Special Collections department. There are also potential publishing ventures being discussed which could also generate revenue and increase access.