Special Collections Students at Work: The Baltimore News American Photo Archives

The University of Maryland’s Special Collections & University Archives houses a particularly interesting and highly utilized acquisition in the Baltimore News American collection. Acquired 30 years ago when the News American stopped its presses for the last time, the collection contains subject and biographical photos used in the Baltimore News American family of newspapers from 1904 through 1986. The fully processed section of the collection spans close to 1600 boxes and over 660 linear feet. And that doesn’t even consider the oversize materials and extensive unprocessed boxes which bring the total number of images to possibly over 1.5 million. The numbers are certainly impressive, but you cannot get a scope for how big the collection is until you see entire walls in our archive stacks solely dedicated to the photographs.

BNAboxes_brightMaking this collection more accessible is the work of many hands, including volunteers and student employees. The work often begins by pulling a number of photos, organized in folders, from one of our unprocessed boxes. We collect information from both the folders and the images including the subject, first and last name, number of photos, and relevant dates [when the photographs were taken, or when the images were published in the newspaper]. All the while, the photos are moved into better, safer acid-free folders and boxes and entered into a database of processed images. Also, given the number of people who have processed this gargantuan collection, we take the time to proofread each other’s data entry work.

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Increasing our capacity

Last year, we began a major shifting project. The new shelves are ridiculously tall and very deep. Material can be “dense packed” meaning that there is a whole lot of stuff every shelf.

In January, library staff got a sneak peak and saw our books’ new home. The environment is highly controlled and the humidity and temperature are just right for keeping our material safe.

The best part of this is that we now have the capacity to collect and purchase even more material for you! This allows us to grow and adapt to better suit your, the researchers, needs.

Check out these photos from my visit.


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Learning to research with Primary Sources

Has your class met with a librarian yet?

We are gearing up for a number of classes with students. We offer a variety of instructional opportunities, but our most common request is to provide students with an introduction to primary source research and the special collections available on campus. Use the resources below to refresh your memory or to learn about research with primary sources.

instructionResearch with primary sources

Web tools

Special Collections and University Archives (find materials now)

ArchivesUM  (archives and manuscripts on campus)

Digital Collections (digitized special collections materials)

Research using primary sources (tutorial)

Other tools

Primary Source Analysis

Newspapers to research topics in 1975

Introduction to Using Primary Sources on Campus (presentation slides)

Contact us – email askhornbake@umd.edu or call 301-405-9212

Analyzing primary sources: Civil War Newspapers

This is one of a series of posts about how to analyze different types of primary sources.

Last week we talked about analyzing literature from the world wars. This week we’re also looking at published material – newspaper images depicting scenes from the Civil War.


During the Civil War, newspapers were a popular source of information about battles, events, and opinions on the war. Radio, television, and the internet were decades away from creation, and photography was still in its early years. Newspapers were dominated by illustrations and articles depicting scenes of the war, which was one of the only ways readers could stay informed about what was happening. Keep in mind national opinions on the war and how newspaper publishers, reporters, and illustrators may have interpreted the scenes they were illustrating and reporting on.


Below are several pages from 19th century American newspapers. Think about some of these questions as you look at each page:

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Analyzing primary sources: Campus protest photographs

This is one of a series of posts about how to analyze different types of primary sources.

Last week we talked about analyzing literature from World War I and World War II. This week we’re also talking about images in a time of strife, but instead of world war literature we’re going to look at Vietnam-era photographs.


During the late 1960s and early 1970s, students across the nation protested against U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. Students at the University of Maryland were no different, and they made their views known on campus and in College Park. Events came to a head between 1970 and 1972, when there were a series of violent protests on campus. At three different points Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel declared a state of emergency and sent in the National Guard to restore order. During the main conflict in May 1970 (students were protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia), students vandalized buildings on campus, set fires on campus, blocked Route 1, and threw bricks, rocks, and bottles at riot police. Police responded with teargas, riot batons, and dogs. The photographs below show some of these scenes – make sure to keep the wider student protests and national opinions regarding the military conflicts in mind as you look at these local events.


Below are several photographs taken at the riots and protests on and near campus. Think about some of these questions as you look at each image:

  • Who took these photographs? Were they involved in the riots?
  • Who is the audience? Were these meant as personal photographs, or were they made public (e.g. – published in a newspaper, book, etc.)?
  • When and where were these photographs taken?
  • What was going on locally, nationally, and internationally at the time these photographs were taken?
  • What is shown in the photographs – is it the whole picture? Are these photographs accurate representations of the events they depict?

[click for larger images]

Further Research

There are many more photographs of Vietnam-era protests in Special Collections. Find more images in University AlbUM – one of our digital collections – by searching for “Vietnam protests” or “Vietnam demonstrations.” There are also several collections of photographs that have not yet been digitized – find information about those collections here.

Learn more about Vietnam-era protests on campus by using this research guide. The guide lists all of the related materials in Special Collections – documents, publications (including student publications), photographs, and more.

Want more help analyzing and understanding primary sources? You can download our Primary Source Analysis handout or take at look at our “Research Using Primary Sources” tutorial. Need help finding primary and secondary sources to analyze? We’re always happy to help – just ask us! You can also check out our website (we recommend starting your research here).