"A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words…"

…but sometimes doesn’t tell the whole story. This week several members of Stratford Hall’s staff, including me, participated in a Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) workshop on planning digital projects. One particular project that we want to pursue is the digitization of our historic images so we could easily share them–or at least a good number of them–with on-line visitors (via our web site, e-newsletter, Flickr, and social networking sites) as well as having them available for our collection catalog, exhibits, publications and research.

Stratford Hall’s collection of visual images contains thousands of photographs and slides just waiting to be organized digitally into a searchable database. Although many of them are interesting images in their own right, even without an additional layer of history attached, just a short caption makes them much more meaningful. We want to catalog our images in a database that will also capture background information. For example, a 1930s black-and-white image of a setter with pups is charming; however, the fact that Stratford Hall’s Resident Superintendent, Gen. B. F. Cheatham, sold the offspring of his cherished Irish Setter Shirley (pictured) to raise money for reconstructing the springhouse is a much more compelling story.

Historic images of the Great House at Stratford have the additional importance of documenting changes in the structure. This circa 1908 cyanotype [this process used predominantly between 1880 and 1920 and identified by its blue tint], taken by Edward A. Preble and given to Stratford by his daughter Marjorie Preble Thorne, shows a small porch at the east end of the house, straight front steps, outside window shutters, and a painted five-board fence bordering the lawn.

Digitizing our images will allow us to make more of our collection accessible to the public and will prevent needless handling of precious originals, helping to preserve them for future generations. The project is a challenging one, but we’ve already begun “brainstorming” about logistics and plan to have a digital strategy developed within the next new months. Check back with us for updates and more shared images.