Oregon Historical Photograph Collections

The Historic Photograph Collections include over 10,000 viewable photographs and related descriptions from the holdings of the Salem Public Library, the Oregon State Archives, and the Marion County Historical Society. The images date from the mid-1800s to the 1990s and depict a wide range of subjects such as Oregon towns, homes, businesses, occupations, scenic vistas, disasters, festivities, and recreational pursuits. The collections are searchable by keyword and are maintained by the Salem Public Library.

Link to the Historic Photograph Collections (this connects to the Salem Public Library Web site)

The Salem Public Library created an image database in 1992 to manage and provide access to photographs in its holdings. Later, an initiative developed to broaden the scope of the database to include other repositories in the Salem area. At that point, the library solicited the participation of the Oregon State Archives and the Marion County Historical Society in a grant funded demonstration effort called the Oregon Images Project. The goal of the project was to create a database that included viewable photographs and related descriptions from all three repositories.

The Salem Public Library provided the computers, printers, software, and training necessary to conduct the project in each repository. In exchange, each repository committed to entering a set number of images and related descriptions into the database. At first the database was accessible only at terminals located at the three repositories. It was placed on the World Wide Web in 1997 to reach a broader audience. The Salem Public Library continues to add photographs from its holdings. However, the Oregon State Archives and the Marion County Historical Society currently are not adding to the collections.

Salem Public Library contributions:
As of late-1998 the Salem Public Library had contributed over 7500 photographs to the collections spanning from the mid-1800s to the 1990s. Major photographic collections represented include the Ben Maxwell Collection; the SalemStatesman-Journal Collection; and the Kovel Homes Collection that includes images of approximately 600 Salem houses in the 1970s.

Oregon State Archives contributions:
The Oregon State Archives contributed nearly 2300 photographs to the project. The goal in selecting these images was to complement but not duplicate the subject areas already covered by the Salem Public Library. Thus, many of the selected photographs feature regions of Oregon outside of the Marion County/Willamette Valley area. They span a period from the 1880s to the 1970s and represent the activities of more than thirty state agencies. Oregon Highway Department tourism promotion photographs make up a large portion of the total. The database also includes a sizable number of photographs from the Oregon State Fair, Water Resources Department, and Oregon Department of Agriculture. The selected images comprise only a small portion of the photographs in the holdings of the Oregon State Archives. Contact the reference staff for information about how to access additional photographs.

Marion County Historical Society contributions:
The Marion County Historical Society contributed over 300 photographs to the database dating from the late-1800s to the mid-1900s. Major subjects include landmark buildings such as the Oregon State Capitol, the Marion County Courthouse, the Oregon State Penitentiary, and the Bush House.

Search tips:
To search specifically for Oregon State Archives photographs:

1.) Click on the link below to the Historic Photograph Collections.

2.) Click on the "advanced search" option.

3.) Uncheck all collection options EXCEPT for "Oregon Archives."

4.) Choose criteria in search window (e.g., Corvallis).

Link to the Historic Photograph Collections (this connects to the Salem Public Library Web site)

Related resource: The Baker County Library has over 10,000 photographs of schools, churches, communities, mines, and other subjects available at the following Web address: http://bakerlib.org/photo-archive

State Archives • 800 Summer St. NE • Salem, OR 97310

Phone: 503-373-0701 • Fax: 503-378-4118 • reference.archives@state.or.us