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Great Lakes, even greater photography

Royal T. Gillette with his camera and car. (Gelatin silver print by the Royal Photo Company, circa 1907.)

Top Image: Royal T. Gillette with his camera and car. (Gelatin silver print by the Royal Photo Company, circa 1907.) Gillette was an entrepreneurial photographer in the Grand Rapids area who used several automobiles for both expanding his territory and promoting his business.

Thirty years ago, the quantity of historical photography at the William L. Clements Library barely merited the term “collection.” Born of small groups of portraits and albums acquired with manuscript collections, today’s holdings amount to more than 60,000 photographic images. This number is expected to double in the coming few years.

The Clements Library has been very successful in acquiring important photographic materials individually and in large groups, such as the James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, the highly diverse Frederick P. Currier Collection, and the Mark A. Anderson Collection of Post-Mortem Photography. But it is largely the addition of the remarkable David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography that has caused the huge expansion of photographic holdings at the Clements.

This vast pool of visual information will provide exceptional resources for the study of agriculture, mining, lumbering, industry, urban and suburban culture, portraiture,  domestic life, leisure, travel, transportation, and many other subjects. In addition to supporting local history research, the collection offers evidence for the study of wider topics, such as the transformations caused by the exploitation of natural resources, the industrialization of American cities and occupations, changes in fashion and dress, racial and cultural identity, the role of fraternal organizations in society, and the uses of photography in business, domestic, and social life.

Read the full story at Michigan Today.


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