Idaho Statesman Negative Index


The Idaho Statesman Negatives collection at Boise State University Library Special Collections includes over 70,000 scenes, perhaps millions of individual images, taken by photographers of the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise, Idaho. The purpose of the photography was for the newspaper, however the vast majority of the images held in this collection were never printed. The indexed portion of this collection ranges from roughly 1950 to 2000, with significant gaps for some years.

History of this collection: 1950 to 2000

Idaho Statesman photographers were sent on assignments and took photos of various events in the Treasure Valley. When they returned to the office, they would file their negatives in envelopes, often writing a brief note on the envelope describing the assignments they captured. The envelopes were then sent through processing, editors and writers would make selections for print. Then the envelopes were boxed up and saved for later use. In 1994 this collection of boxes of envelopes was donated to Boise State University Library, Special Collections and Archives with the stipulation that the Idaho Statesman Newspaper preserved copyright of all imagery. Since then, the Library has received several additions to the collection.

Indexing and collection management: 1995 to 2016

Once in possession of Special Collections and Archives, library staff and students accomplished the monumental task of transcribing and indexing the notes taken on virtually every envelope. The project took many years and remains unfinished. The processing team faced some significant challenges. In some early years of the collection, around 1961 to 1964, the negatives had no descriptions and many were not dated. The processors did their best to describe the photos based on the content of the photo, thus we have many photos described very generally, like two men with hats. Because these photo were also not dated, they were filed under a general year category.

Later on in the collection Idaho Statesman photographers were sent on many assignments, and combined many scenes into one envelope. One single envelope could hold over a dozen different scenes. The processors did not have the time to transcribe these envelope descriptions word-for-word, nor did the database they used allow for such detail. They decided to simplify the envelope descriptions to keywords and names. The project eventually made it to a point where the majority of the envelopes were indexed in the collection.

The data was originally stored on an obsolete database program, then migrated to Microsoft Access. In 2017, this data was again migrated to a MySQL database and made available online. Very little cleanup has yet occurred on this data-set.

The Idaho Statesman Negative index is not a digital collection; the index is descriptions of negatives. The collection is open to the public; see our guidelines on using the collections. To use the collection:

  • Search the index (Description, Names, and Date are the most relevant fields)
  • Each line represents one envelope of negatives, which may contain up to dozens of images
  • Use the save tools (right) to export the list in preferred format [Note: export includes only what is on the screen, change to “show all results” to export entire list]
  • Review guidelines for using the collection and/or ordering scanned images. Email or bring your list of envelopes to begin the selection process. Note: the selection process can take several hours, depending on the amount of envelopes requested.
  • Once photos are selected, please work with Special Collections and Archives staff to determine appropriate use or publishing permission requirements. The Idaho Statesman retains copyright to all images.