Future generations of researchers and family genealogists will have access to thousands of historic photos of everyday life in St. Louis thanks to a grant awarded to the Missouri Historical Society by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Missouri Historical Society has been awarded $93,000 as part of IMLS’s Museums for America Program to embark on a 3-year project titled Seeing 1940s St. Louis: The Sievers Studio Collection. The project will provide access to and promote the use of thousands of negatives and photographic prints created by the Sievers commercial photography studio during the 1940s. The negatives and prints in the Sievers Studio Collection span 8 decades, documenting everyday life in St. Louis from 1917-1989. The 1940s segment of the collection documents a decade of great economic growth, as well as social and political change during a time when St. Louis was one of the most populous cities in the country.

“This generous grant from IMLS will allow us to catalog, preserve, and make accessible to future generations these remarkable photos of St. Louis,” said Amanda Claunch, photos and prints archivist for the Missouri Historical Society. “Commercial photography studios are one of the best photographic resources in any archive. The accompanying business records of a studio collection provide detailed information that is often missing from other photography collections, such as date, client, subject and location. The Sievers Studio Collection provides a glimpse at the changing physical and cultural landscape of the city of St. Louis, as well as daily life.”

The grant will allow the Missouri Historical Society to gain full intellectual and physical control over a sizeable section of the Sievers Studio Collection. The Missouri Historical Society will create a detailed index for an estimated 9,100 photographic job assignments and digitize approximately 3,000 selected images from within those job assignments. Full online access to all descriptive records and digitized images will be made publically available through the Missouri Historical Society website. The grant also makes possible the proper housing and storage of the material, which is necessary for long-term preservation. Currently over half of the negatives and prints are stored together in their original acidic paper envelopes from the 1940s. MHS will separate the materials by type, provide proper envelope and folder storage, and examine the condition of vulnerable film. The most endangered film will be identified and placed in cold storage.

The Missouri Historical Society will employ a full-time temporary Project Archivist for the full three-year duration of the project, as well as a part-time temporary Digitization and Cataloging Specialist for the final 15 months of the project.

In 2016 the Missouri Historical Society received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for a two-year project titled, “Picturing 1930s St. Louis: Sievers Studio Collection.” Missouri Historical Society archivists recently completed the project, processing more than 10,000 images and digitizing more than 5,000. Researchers can even access a mapcreated by Missouri Historical Society archivists documenting the locations of various photo shoots conducted by Sievers Studio over the decade.

Items of special interest in the “Picturing 1930s St. Louis” Portion of the Sievers Studio Collection Include:

• Images documenting the effects of the Great Depression, including the Hooverville on the St. Louis Riverfront
• Images documenting the growth and change in many business industries including: prominent St. Louis automobile dealerships such as Mound City Motors; the growth of the film industry and local theaters such as Loew’s State Theatre and the Fox Theatre; alternative products sold by Anheuser-Busch during Prohibition; and the growth of new household appliances such as radios and refrigerators
• Images documenting the development of new residential areas in south St. Louis City, including St. Louis Hills. Images of new downtown buildings including the Municipal Auditorium and the construction of the U.S. Court and Custom House.
• Images of visiting celebrities, including Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Doolittle, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Betty Grable, and Helen Kane.

“For most of the twentieth century, Sievers Photographers created a rich, visual record of lives St. Louis citizens,” said Claunch. “With the continued support of organizations like NHPRC and IMLS, we hope we can one day make accessible to researchers the entirety of the Sievers Studio Collection.”

The finding aid for the Sievers Studio Collection is available online at mohistory.org.

Via Press Release

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