What is reprographics and what do we do? Quite literally, it’s the reproduction of graphic material. For the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) that primarily means digitizing the photographic and other visual material in our collections. We work with the other units in the department – Rio Grande Historical Collections, Political Collections, Hobson-Huntsinger University Archives, and Special Collections – to digitize and care for these items. There are more than 1,000,000 photographs, thousands of films and videos, and various other visual formats housed here. Subjects include ranching, mining, NMSU athletics, family snapshots, early Las Cruces and surrounding areas, and many more. We have photographs of crime scenes and mugshots (James M. Flanagan photographs), the Mexican Revolution (Register of the Mexican Revolution Photographs), as well as other types of images, like 1850s lithographs of scenes from Texas to California along the 32nd parallel (Carl Schuchard Lithographs). Photographic formats in our collections range from some of the earliest photographic processes, like daguerreotypes and glass plate negatives, to real photo postcards and digital photography.
Moving image formats range from 8mm, 16mm and 35mm films to VHS, U-Matic, Beta tapes and others. Currently, we’re working on inspecting, cleaning, and rehousing the film collection of former NMSU professor, Orville “Buddy” Wanzer (the subject of a future blog post!). He wrote and directed the first locally produced, and nationally released, film shot in Las Cruces – The Devil’s Mistress. His collection contains 16mm and 35mm film reels of footage from his film projects, along with some student films produced as coursework for his classes. Other films in the collection include the locally made Mesilla Valley Newsreels, from the 1940s and 50s, and many NMSU films.
In order to make our visual materials more accessible to researchers and the general public, we have an active program to scan our photographs and make them available on our website. Without getting too technical, our digitization process involves scanning images at a high resolution, cleaning up any scratches or dust, then adjusting the image’s colors and tonal properties, without compromising the integrity of the original image. Once photos from a collection are digitized, they’re added to our online database. This process involves writing relevant descriptive information (metadata) for each image to make them discoverable through searching.
With so many great images in our collections, how do we decide what to digitize? Our images are organized into collections. Sometimes we digitize the collections in their entirety, but with limited staff and resources, we often have to be more selective. We try to prioritize collections and images that contain subject matter relevant to our researchers’ needs or important topics in the history of New Mexico, the American Southwest, and the US-Mexico borderlands region. This can include portraits of people who played important roles in shaping the region, agriculture and ranching activities, water use along the Rio Grande, mining, the development of communities, urban renewal in downtown Las Cruces, etc. Because only a small fraction of our photographs have been digitized so far, we rely on our familiarity with the material in our collections to assist researchers looking for something specific. We do this by searching our internal records and descriptive guides, like the finding aids available in the Rocky Mountain Online Archive, or by physically browsing through collections.
We are able to provide scans to researchers for use in publications, exhibits, television, news articles, and more. Images from our collections are on display in local restaurants and hotels; in exhibitions at national museums, like the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian Institution; and have been published internationally in books, magazines, and newspapers.
Not only do we provide digital scans to our researchers, but we can produce high-quality, large-format inkjet prints as well. This service is mostly utilized in-house for creating our own exhibits and producing informational posters for the library. But if you’d like to order a 24×36-inch print of one the images in our collections to hang in your living room, we can do that too! Images can be requested through our Duplication Request form. A list of our duplication fees can be found here: https://lib.nmsu.edu/archives/duplication.html.
If you need help tracking down an image or have questions about using an image in your publication, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.