Courier Journal donates photographic archives to the University of Louisville
To ensure that future generations can remember defining moments in Louisville’s history, The Courier Journal donates its library of approximately 3 million photographs and negatives to the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections. .
The Courier Journal, winner of 11 Pulitzer Prizes in its 154-year history, has been joined by its parent company, Gannett, to donate the collection, which is being appraised and expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars. The move will allow the public to access the collection, which chronicles the history of Louisville as well as Kentucky and the nation.
The collection includes images of everyday events and major events from around the mid-1930s to the early 2000s, when digital photography began to replace the use of film to capture images. The collection may date back even further, but the Great Louisville Flood of 1937 destroyed much of the Courier Journal’s photo and negative library.
“This gift will allow The Courier Journal to continue the legacy of our work through this collection of historic photographs,” said Mary Irby-Jones, Editor-in-Chief of The Courier Journal. “It’s important to us to preserve and share our work with others so that our community can learn more about the history of Louisville as captured by our photographers in the field for over 150 years.”
Members of the Bingham family, who owned the newspaper from 1918 to 1986, made a separate donation to the U of L to help preserve the collection, prepare it for public use, and develop programming around it. this.
The combined generosity will create the Barry Bingham Jr. Courier-Journal Photography Collection, U of L Acting President Lori Stewart Gonzalez said. The millions of photos and negatives in the collection will nearly double the holdings of the U of L’s photographic archives.
“We are extremely grateful to The Courier Journal, Gannett, Emily Bingham, Molly Bingham and the rest of the Bingham family for making this historic gift possible,” Gonzalez said. “Generations of readers have seen these photos in their daily lives every morning, and now future generations will continue to be able to study and appreciate the insight they provide into the history of our city, our state, our nation and the world.
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Emily and Molly Bingham said they were excited to participate.
“For almost a decade, our dream has been to honor our father by finding a permanent public place for the Courier Journal’s photographic collection,” they said. “This visual treasure is testament to his dedication to high-quality journalism, his passion for photography, his love of archives and his commitment to public access to information. He’s up there somewhere today, smiling and happily twirling his trademark handlebar mustache.
The Courier Journal is selling its downtown office building at 525 W. Broadway and wanted to make sure the collection was housed in a safe place.
Among the thousands of photo prints and negatives are compelling images from the civil rights movement; the 1970 mining disaster in Hyden, Kentucky; the integration of Louisville Public Schools; the fatal 1988 Carrollton bus crash and historic, award-winning photos from the Kentucky Derby, Irby-Jones said.
“The Courier Journal is honored to entrust this invaluable archive to the care of the University of Louisville for the purpose of making the collection available to the community for research and scholarship,” said Irby-Jones.
Along with the Civil Rights Movement and the Kentucky Derby, the collection chronicles World War II, “presidential visits, changes in the built environment, as well as numerous public appearances and behind-the-scenes footage of world leaders and celebrities. “, said Carrie Daniels, director. of Archives and Special Collections at U of L. “Basically, all of the changes happening in our country have been captured in these photographs.”
Elizabeth Reilly, photo archivist at U of L Libraries, said the sheer volume of photos and negatives in the collection means it will take years to organize.
“It’s an incredible collection,” she said. “But we hope to make part of the collection available online in the near future. Digitizing – and more importantly, creating the descriptions necessary for the photographs to be found online – takes time but it will make the collection accessible to anyone who wants to see it. »
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Reilly praised Barry Bingham Jr., the third and final member of the Bingham family to serve as the newspaper’s publisher, for setting high photographic standards. The Courier Journal won two Pulitzer Prizes for photojournalism during his tenure.
“He was a huge proponent of high quality photojournalism,” Reilly said. “It grew and improved the quality of photography in the newspaper as photo printing techniques improved over time. This commitment to quality is reflected in the collection and lives on in the images we see today in The Courier Journal.
Pat McDonogh, who worked as a photographer at the newspaper for 39 years, said the collection is “truly a unique and one-of-a-kind pictorial history of Kentucky.”
“The Courier Journal has a long history of great photography, and now it’s being saved for future generations to enjoy and explore,” McDonogh said. “I’ve spent many sleepless nights over the fate of the archives, and I’m glad they are now safe.”
C. Thomas Hardin, who spent 28 years as a photographer and cinematographer at the Courier Journal and the Louisville Times, said the collection is “truly a first-rate historic gift for this region, the city, the county , Kentucky and all of its 120 counties as well as southern Indiana.
The Barry Bingham Jr. Courier-Journal Photo Collection Endowment seeks additional contributions to support organization, digitization, library services, and public programming involving the collection.
To contribute or for more information, contact Denise Bohn, [email protected]
Contact Billy Kobin at [email protected]