Federal grant expands library's online photo collection of Ozarks' life and history

A $10,000 federal grant is expanding the Springfield-Greene County Library's online digital collection of photographs "vividly documenting a period of rapid change in Springfield and the Ozarks."

Part of the digital collection “From the Darkroom,” library staff will add 5,000 more digital images to the nearly 29,000 images already acquired. Those images originate from the Springfield News-Leader’s estimated 2.7 million photographs and negatives from 1945 to 2011.

“We are extremely excited to work with the News-Leader to preserve and digitize this collection,” said project director Brian Grubbs in a statement. “It is one of the most extensive photographic collections from the Ozarks.”

The collection already online depicts the period of rapid growth in Springfield and the Ozarks. It includes images of Route 66, the Frisco Railroad, O’Reilly General Army Hospital, Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, Mercy Hospital, women in the workforce, economic and urban growth, agricultural developments, political movements, cultural changes, and daily life.

The latest addition of digitized photos were possible through an American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries award. It is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and in partnership with the American Library Association.

The Springfield News-Leader and its predecessor newspapers have documented life in the Ozarks for 155 years. The paper can trace its origins to the Springfield Leader, which debuted April 4, 1867. A fire on March 26, 1947, destroyed the Springfield Newspaper, Inc. building and the company’s extensive photograph library. Only seven images taken before 1947 survive, including the celebration of Victory over Japan Day on the Springfield Square.

The project began in 2016, and the library and News-Leader expanded their partnership in 2021 to relocate photographs and negative images to the library district’s Local History & Genealogy archives.

"Library staff then began working to organize the massive collection of images, placing them in date order, identifying any undated images, and rehousing the entire collection into archival boxes," reads a library press release.

The digital archive of photos can be found at thelibrary.org/fromthedarkroom.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Federal grant expands library's online photo collection of Ozarks history