In 1984 the Municipal Archives established a Photo Unit. Its staff of three (plus interns) is dedicated to the unique challenges in preserving and providing public access to the 4 million images in the Archives’ photograph collections. Their activities range from collection maintenance to the production of new prints, and digital conversion.
Every month the photo unit makes hundreds of prints from vintage negatives for patrons and exhibitions, creates meta-data for digitized collections, prepares negatives for cold storage, and produces thousands of new high-resolution scans.
The Archives maintains a traditional black-and-white darkroom with one 8x10 enlarger and two 4x5 enlargers. In 2002 it established a digital lab to preserve and make available collections on fragile paper or those that only existed as negatives. The lab has now expanded to include two 13x19 inch reflective and transmissive flat-bed scanners, a 5x7 inch drum scanner, and an oversize scanner capable of handling prints 42 inches wide.
In May 2012, the Archives launched its on-line gallery of over 870,000 images selected from the collections. Patrons can easily browse or conduct subject-specific searches. They can order reproductions as prints, or high-resolution digital files with a licensing agreement. The Photo Unit is dedicated to expanding its presence on the web through the online gallery and its Tumblr blog, and continues to improve online-user accessibility, and to increase its digital holdings.