For generations, most of the photographs housed in the newsroom archive of The New York Times — known affectionately as “the morgue” — have been hidden away from the public eye in filing cabinets and manila folders.
There are exceptions, of course. The newspaper runs archival photographs every day. Then there are those photos Lens has featured in “The Lively Morgue,” an occasional series we introduced in September 2010. So far, we’ve published 17 collections, ranging in subjects from saucy publicity shots to the art of washing windows.
But we haven’t even made a dent. If we published 10 of our archival images everyday, it would be at least the year 3935 before we’d shown off the entire collection. That’s one of the reasons we launched “The Lively Morgue,” an all-archives, all-the-time feed on the social blogging site, Tumblr.
We published the first images on Monday afternoon and there are many more to come.
How many, you ask? As David W. Dunlap notes in an introduction on Tumblr, the morgue has at least 10 million frames in all. There are five million to six million prints and contact sheets, each sheet representing many discrete images. And then there are 300,000 sacks of negatives, ranging in format size from 35 millimeter to 5 by 7 inches. The picture archive also includes about 4.7 gigabytes worth of imagery on each of 13,500 DVDs.
These photographs, Mr. Dunlap writes, “give lie to the idea that The New York Times is not a picture newspaper.” The paper began publishing an illustrated Sunday magazine 116 years ago. Early in the 20th century, it even had its own picture agency, Wide World Photos. Mr. Dunlap continues:
It was an era of bold global exploration to the North and South Poles. Aviation was evolving at breathtaking speed. Russia was in revolt. Pictures. New York took its place as a global cultural capital. The world was again convulsed in a war that ended with the atomic bomb. More pictures. Civil rights were won on the battleground, while explorers turned their sights to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Pictures and more pictures.
The Tumblr project has been in the works for many months. Along with others, Darcy Eveleigh, a picture editor, has been digging through the morgue, picking out images that catch her eye. There is little rhyme or reason to our selection, other than the obvious: We’ve chosen images that delight us. We know more information about some of the pictures than others. On the Tumblr, each one can be flipped over so that viewers can see notations on the reverse side, which explain the photos’ path at The Times over the years. We’ve also provided some clues about how to interpret them.
On occasion, we’ll delve deeper into the stories behind these images on Lens. Until then, visit Tumblr to see the first images in an ongoing series.
The New York TimesThe photographic library of The New York Times Company in London.
The Lively Morgue was created by a team that includes Nic Barajas, Jennifer Brook, David W. Dunlap, Darcy Eveleigh, Lacy Garrison, Jake Guevara, Meaghan Looram, Heena Ko, Ben Koski, Kerri MacDonald, Alexis Mainland, Jim Mones, Alessandra Montalto, Bill O’Donnell, Jeffrey Roth and Patricia Wall.