This digital archive collection encompasses digital collections of Yosemite National Park. The digital collection shared through NPGallery is only a sampling of the larger collection. Additional collections will be added in the future. Details about the collections currently on NPGallery is listed below.
There are over 20,000 historic images in the park archives and we refer to this as the "historic photo collection." Just over 6,500 of these images have been digitized. The history of researcher access to these photographs is almost as fascinating as the very history the photographs document. Originally, the park's archives were located in the attic of the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley and was called the "Records Center." Staff and researchers obtained access by going to the Research Library, which moved to the second floor of the Yosemite Museum in 1967. Over the course of decades, photocards were created by the park staff which contained all known documentation about a given image with the print adhered to the card. These cards were organized by subject classifications and researchers would patiently flip through drawers of cards to find an image. The negatives were moved from the Research Library to cold storage in the park’s archives in El Portal in 2016. Cold storage is a preservation technique to extend the life of film.
In 2018, the Yosemite Archives was awarded a grant from Yosemite Conservancy to digitize historic negatives in the collections and make them accessible online for use by both park staff and the public. The photocards were moved from the Research Library to the Archives in 2018 when the project was initiated to facilitate data entry from the cards as the negatives were scanned. There are many steps involved in making these images available to the wider world, and thus far the grant has allowed the Yosemite Archives to research the copyright status of 8,000 images and digitally catalog the associated documentation on the photocards. This data about the images is what information professionals refer to as 'metadata'. The digital catalog enables the attachment of metadata to its respective digital image, allowing researchers to access both the photographs and associated metadata in one tidy package; just like an online photocard. Negatives are scanned only if copyright research reveals that they are in the public domain or are orphaned works. "Orphaned work" is a status of images with very little documentation that require due diligence to determine the creator and status. On the website, researchers will find a drop-down menu that replicates the original subject organization of the photocards. Anyone can search the entire database, or use these classifications to help narrow the search to a specific subject. All of the images were scanned at high resolution and may be downloaded for free. Although there is no need to contact the Yosemite Archives for permission to use these public images, a citation acknowledging the park is the custodian of these images is expected. If phase two of the project is funded, the Yosemite Archives will continue adding historic images to NPGallery for the public to browse and use.
Annual reports of the Superintendent of National Parks to the Secretary of the Interior are official correspondence highlighting special events, park improvements, yearly statistics and planning which are summarized by park staff and often contain photo-documentation from project work and occasionally inserted maps/drawings.
This series consists of a set of forty panoramic photographs taken from fire lookouts and lookout points (proposed lookout sights) in Yosemite National Park. Most photographs were taken in 1934, though a few date to 1937. They appear to be part of a U. S. Forest Service (USFS) project conducted around this time, although scant documentation about the photographs and about the USFS project exists in the National Park Service (NPS) archives. Accompanying the images is a letter to Superintendent C.G. Thomson of Yosemite National Park, dated 1935 and signed by the project photographer, Lester M. Moe, USFS forester/photographer. The letter lists the panoramic photographs to be donated to a variety of Yosemite locations and is paired with a distribution list that outlines the specific photographs to be given to each ranger station, office, and lookout in Yosemite National Park and in Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests. The letter and envelope mention enclosed vertical angle scales (to assist with image viewing), but these are not present in the collection. Lookout points in Yosemite National Park contemporaneous with these photographs were the Merced Grove (Crane Flat) Lookout, Aspen Valley Lookout, Henness Ridge, Signal Peak, Pilot Peak, Smith Peak, Sentinel Dome, Bald Mountain, Wawona Point, and Wood’s Ridge.