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Guide for Photo Researchers

When looking for historic photographs at the Archives of Michigan, it is helpful to know what to expect. Persons interested in the types of photographs available are encouraged to consult the Pictorial History of Michigan by George S. May, a John M. Munson Michigan History Fund Publication, Michigan Historical Commission, Department of State (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967-69). Almost all photo research should be done in person.


The vast majority of the 350,000 photographic images are in black and white. Color is an impermanent process and will fade in time, hence the Archives of Michigan does not actively seek out color images.


When doing photographic research on a specific subject, the best place to start is the General Photo Collection. The General Photo Collection contains nearly 50,000 prints. This collection has a good subject guide. It is also on microfilm in negative images so one can narrow down the search before actually pulling the photographs. An archivist will be happy to help you.


If the researcher is interested in a particular portrait, there is the Portrait Collection Index of 15,000 images, which is indexed alphabetically by last name. These photos are easily retrieved. Any archivist present will be able to assist.


There are also Special Photo Collections from government agencies and private donors which may require the assistance of an archivist to reference. They range from vast groups of photos and negatives numbering in the thousands to three unique nature prints. There are large collections from departments of Michigan state government such as Natural Resources, Public Health, and Transportation. Private donations include images of Great Lakes vessels, and Michigan scenes used to manufacture postcards. It is best to call for an appointment at (517) 373-1481.


After locating a photo, note the negative number (if there is one) or other identifying information.


There are two methods for obtaining good quality copies of the photographs. The best method is to order copies made from the negative (if no negative is available, a copy negative must first be made at extra cost). There is a fee for this service which will be billed by the contracting studio. The usual turn-around time for the process is two weeks. The Archives of Michigan has also developed digital reproduction services.  For more information on the digital services please call (517) 373-1481 or E-mail Plain paper photocopying of photographs is also provided at modest cost for those who require only a rough image. Reproduction Services provides additional information about policies and obtaining copies of photos, film, microfilm, etc. For prices and ordering information, please call (517) 373-1481 or E-mail archives@michigan.govThe Archives of Michigan is no longer able to provide a copy-stand for researchers nor are researchers allowed to bring in their own camera to photograph collections.


All images in the Archives of Michigan have come by transmittal from government agencies or by donation from private citizens, and the staff is anxious to consider items to add to the photographic collections.


Historical research in the photographic holdings of the Archives of Michigan is open to all the public, and interested persons are encouraged to contact the Archives of Michigan to discuss their needs and to arrange a visit.


The Archives of Michigan looks forward to serving you and hopes that you will find your time at our facility both enjoyable and informative.

Click Archives of Michigan to visit the Archives of Michigan home page.

Archives of Michigan
Michigan Library and Historical Center
702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: (517) 373-1481

Updated 03/10/2010

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