The following is a guest post by Arden Alexander, Cataloging Specialist in the Prints & Photographs Division.
The U.S. Congress has always been a popular research topic for Prints and Photographs Division patrons. The recently processed Roll Call Collection offers a wealth of photographs that pick up where our other collections leave off, covering the years 1988-2000.
Consisting of almost 300,000 photographs–primarily black-and-white, but also some color–the collection forms the larger part of the massive CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection. The photographs were created for use in Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly (CQ), two leading Capitol Hill publications.
Patrons can now find portraits of people not previously well represented in our collections including members of Congress John Boehner and Geraldine Ferraro.
In addition to acquainting us with the faces of many politicians, the collection includes striking pictures of election activities, demonstrations, conventions, hearings, press conferences, social activities and visits of world leaders. Images of the U.S. Capitol complex, celebrities and the life in the Capitol Hill neighborhood also abound. In another big plus for researchers, the photographs taken by staff photographers, which represent most of the collection, have no known copyright restrictions.
Researchers view the photographs primarily through contact sheets (multiple photos relating to a particular photo assignment, contact printed from 35 mm negatives onto a single sheet). Each contact sheet has an online description that summarizes the contents and leads researchers to the location in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room file where the images are available for viewing. (Magnifying glasses are always on hand for catching the details!)
The collection includes corresponding negatives for most of the images on the contact sheets, which enables researchers to purchase quality digital images. P&P staff members who processed the collection selected a variety of negatives to digitize in order to give a flavor of the collection. Here is just a small sample of what you can find in the CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection:
CQ Roll Call (part of the Economist Group) generously donated these images in 2011. P&P Curator of Photography, Beverly Brannan says “An initial sampling of the collection prior to acquisition convinced us that it would help us fulfill our mandate of serving Congress by documenting its activities, as well as meeting our objective of providing photographs to researchers as freely as possible. Preparing the collection for public use has borne out our hopes, revealing a range of issues, depth of coverage, and quality of images unprecedented in other public domain collections for this period.” The CQ segment of the collection, which remains to be processed, will be accessible in the future, promising still more familiar faces and new discoveries.
- View digitized images from the Roll Call Collection.
- Whet your appetite to explore the collection on site by reading summaries of three segments of the Roll Call Collection:
- Whet your appetite still more by trying your own search. Look for a name, event, or topic, combined with the phrase “CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection.” For example, “CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection” musicians. And if you find something that stirs your curiosity, have a look at our Information for Researchers page for information about using the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, obtaining copies, etc.
- Explore our overview of the variety of images relating to Congress to be found in P&P collections: Pictures of Congress: An Overview.
- Delve into other P&P photojournalism collections that are strong for representation of political activities in Washington, D.C.: