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Chicago History Museum Names Photography Collection for Russell L. Lewis, Jr.

04/10/2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

MEDIA CONTACT
Karina Rosado | Interim Public Communications Manager | 312-799-2161| rosado@chicagohistory.org

 

Chicago History Museum Names Photography Collection for Russell L. Lewis, Jr.

 

 CHICAGO (April 10, 2019) – The Chicago History Museum today announced that its important photography collection of nitrate film negatives will be named for Russell L. Lewis, Jr.  “The acquisition, preservation, and digitization of the nitrate negatives were a particular focus for Mr. Lewis during his 36-year career at the Chicago History Museum,” said the museum’s President, Gary T. Johnson.  Mr. Lewis recently retired and is now the museum’s Chief Historian Emeritus.  “This designation is a fitting tribute to Russell’s work as an historian and his dedication to preserving and sharing Chicago’s stories.”

Containing over 35,000 negatives in more than 70 individual collections, the museum’s nitrate holdings document Chicago and its neighboring communities, as well as select people, places, and moments in American history, from the 1890s through the 1950s. Important subjects documented in these holdings include Chicago’s steel and railroad industries, social service agencies, transportation infrastructure, public parks, neighborhoods, suburbs, and a host of significant events in Chicago history. Together, these negatives form a rich visual record of Chicago’s development as a major city and industrial center, illuminate America’s transformation from a rural nation to an urban society and culture, and serve as powerful documentary evidence of the warp and weft of daily life in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Nitrate films date from the 1880s and were gradually phased out over the latter part of the 20th century.  A largely untapped resource, nitrate negatives are chemically volatile and require special care.  For that reason, there is a need to create digital back-ups of the negatives.

Approximately 4,600 nitrate negatives in the Chicago History Museum’s collection were digitized with the assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation awarded CHM a planning grant in 2012 to survey the condition and content of the nitrate negative collections.  This survey helped secure funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to digitize the negatives, which are now publicly available via the museum’s Collections Online portal (powered by CONTENTdm).  The negatives have been transferred to explosion-proof freezers to halt deterioration.

“Mr. Lewis led all of these efforts to preserve, back-up, and share this key collection,” according to Walter C. Carlson, Chair of the Chicago History Museum’s Board of Trustees.  “Naming this collection in his honor expresses our museum’s and our city’s gratitude for the very long list of contributions that Russell has made to the cause of history throughout his extraordinarily productive career.”

 

ABOUT THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM
The Chicago History Museum serves as a hub of scholarship and learning, inspiration and civic engagement. The Museum has dedicated more than a century to celebrating and sharing Chicago’s stories through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming. Located at 1601 N. Clark Street in Chicago’s historic Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents and images to help audiences connect to the city and its history. To learn more visit www.chicagohistory.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. The Chicago History Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago.



ABOUT THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM

The Chicago History Museum, a major museum and research center for Chicago and American history, is located at 1601 N. Clark Street. The Museum has dedicated more than a century to celebrating and sharing Chicago stories through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming. The Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents and images to help audiences connect to the city and its history. The Chicago History Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. The Chicago History Museum is a 2016 winner of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest award given to these institutions for their community engagement and having an impact on the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories
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