Beginning in the mid-1970s, employees of the Georgia Archives traveled the state in a converted school bus in an effort to save Georgia’s photographic history. They located, selected and duplicated historically significant images held by individuals and organizations across the state.
The “Vanishing Georgia” project resulted in a collection of nearly 18,000 images. These images, spanning more than 100 years of Georgia history, now are available electronically through the Digital Library of Georgia, a unit of the UGA Libraries.
“Vanishing Georgia covers topics ranging from rural life to railroads and industry. It includes family and business life, street scenes and architecture, school and civic activities, landscapes, and important individuals and events in Georgia history. There are nearly a thousand images documenting African-American life and photos from Georgia’s Asian community in the early 20th century,” says Toby Graham, DLG director. “Vanishing Georgia is where you can go to find images of the airships stationed in Glynn County during World War II or a large likeness of Jimmy Carter’s face made entirely of camellia blossoms. Visiting Vanishing Georgia is like viewing a giant photograph album for the state. Visitors should be aware that the database also includes historically significant images on some of the state’s darker periods, but taken as a whole Vanishing Georgia is an engaging and educational cross-section of Georgia history and life.”
Through a partnership among the Georgia Archives, Georgia Public Library Service and GALILEO, the 18,000 photos have been digitized and are accessible via the Internet as a part of the Digital Library of Georgia. The DLG is a UGA-based initiative of GALILEO, Georgia’s virtual library.
“With both documentary and artistic value, these photographs are a testament to the hard work and the vision of the archivists who sought to save them for posterity,” Graham says.
In 1982, selected photographs from the collection appeared in a Vanishing Georgia book published by the University of Georgia Press. There was a renewed emphasis on the Vanishing Georgia photographs in 2001 when the Georgia Public Library Service (part of the University System of Georgia), the Georgia Archives and the University System’s GALILEO decided to combine their efforts in a new program called Georgia HomePLACE (Providing Library and Archives
Collections Electronically). They selected Vanishing Georgia as the first major project and were awarded a federal grant through the Library Services and Technology Act to support the digitization of the photographs.
“Vanishing Georgia is an example of what can be achieved when organizations and agencies combine their efforts and resources,” says Thomas Meredith, University System chancellor. “Through the window of GALILEO, Georgians now have an electronic view of the state’s history.”
Visitors to Vanishing Georgia may search for images by topic, city, county, date, by the descriptions provided by the donors and by other characteristics of the photographs. They may browse through a list of all of the images from a given county or city or on a specific topic. There also are advanced viewing features, such as the ability to enlarge portions of an image for close-in examination. The Vanishing Georgia Web site includes links and suggested readings on Georgia history, photography and other related sites, information on how the collection was digitized and an essay on issues of cultural sensitivity.
“Visitors should be aware that the images and even the descriptions provided by the donors reflect the time in which they were created. Some may contain outdated language, prejudice or stereotypes,” says Graham.