R - AP



July 20, 1943


To:                          The Director

From:                      E. H. Frothingham

Subject:                  General Interest Photograph File


In accordance with your request, I have prepared the following report on the status of the central photograph file, and suggestions for its upkeep.


The purpose of the central collection of general interest photographs (display collection, for short) is to make it easy to find good pictures for illustrating general articles, have pictures available for demonstrating Station activities to visitors, and maintain a record of research etc. To accomplish this purpose three things are especially important. The display collection should be well classified, to represent adequately all photographable subjects and major activities dealt with by the Station. It should contain the best pictures available in the project photographic files, or at least a representative sample of these. And the pictures should all be given thoroughly explanatory titles which should be uniform in style.

A classification scheme was approved at the technical staff conference of June 26-27, 1939. With some modifications and extensions this scheme was put into effect in 1941, at which time the entire photographic collection, formerly kept intact in the library, was distributed to individual project files (see the Director's memorandum R - AP, Photographs, of April 2, 1941). The scheme is a decimal classification with 10 major heads, most of them broken down into several subheads. It is shown in the complete list, to date, or filed pictures, attached to this memorandum.

The display collection was started by reviewing the entire Station collection before it was distributed to project files. Selections were made, as a rule, on the bases of subject, good photography, and value as a record Station accomplishment. But some rather poor pictures were selected because they were the only ones that illustrated a certain subject, or because that helped to carry through a sequence. On the other hand, not all the good pictures in the project files were selected, since one or two of a given subject would serve the purpose of the display collection, and this purpose would be best served by a reasonable limitation of the total number of pictures on display.


[page 2]- The Director - July 20, 1943

The majority of the pictures needed more descriptive titles than were on the envelopes or in the photographic notes, and the additional information frequently had to be obtained from project establishment and progress reports. Some good pictures were omitted from the collection because of the lack of information from which to prepare the titles. The form of the title is generally uniform.

Current Procedure

When prints of new pictures are received from Washington, a copy of the Form 166 bearing the author's descriptions and the Forest Service serial numbers is delivered to the person in charge of the display collection. A set of the prints should be delivered at the same time; if not, a later search through the individual project files may be avoided by obtaining the prints from the project leader before they have been distributed. The prints are then reviewed, and each selected number is distinctively marked on the Form 166. Criteria for selection include photographic quality; subject value, either for general interest of to fill a gap, or extend a sequence; avoidance of duplication of equally good prints already on file; and adequacy of the information supplied or obtainable, to furnish a self-explanatory title. The marked Forms166 are filed until enough selections (usually 30 or more) have accumulated to justify a requisition for printing and mounting.

A copy of every purchase order for local developing and printing is delivered by the Administrative Assistant to the person in charge of the display collection. But since the Director's memorandum (R - AP, Photographs) of April 2, 1941, specifies the  "no picture (bigger than Leica prints) may go into any file--- unless it has been official Forest Service number, " and since Form 166 must accompany all new material sent in to Washington for processing, this use of local purchase orders is merely a double check, in most instances.

On requisition, the Washington office makes prints corresponding to the serial numbers selected and mounts them on cards sent with the requisition by the Station. It is well to specify each time that the pictures shall be mounted on the white sides of the cards. It is convenient to prepare the titles in longhand at the time the selections are made and the prints and descriptions are at hand. Style of title hitherto used is:

(1) Display collection index number.

(2) Descriptions.

(3) Location of subject.

(4) Name of man who took the picture.

(5) Date of exposure (month and year).

(6) Forest Service serial number.

When the mounted pictures are received from Washington the titles should be typed and posted on the cards above horizontal views or to the left of vertical ones. There remains a small supply of gummed paper

[page 3] 3 - The Director - July 20, 1943

suitable for the titles. It may prove useful to list the accessions serially by display collection numbers so as to keep up to date the list already made. The pictures are now ready for filing by index numbers, and preferably in order of Forest Service serial numbers within each display group.

Card Indexes

A card index of all serially numbered photographs in the Station's project files was maintained through No. 374775.  The cards show only the serial number and the project designation. The value of this index has increased greatly since the distribution of the photographs to the project files; it is the first place to go in search of the description of any wandering serially numbered print. It has been extremely useful in building up the display collection. It can easily be brought up to date by making additional cards from the file of Forms 166 in the central office.

Another card index is for the display collection only. The cards bear the Forest Service serial numbers of the prints and the numbers and names of the display collection sub-head guide cards behind which the mounted prints are filed. This index has been extremely useful in determining whether or not any particular numbered picture is in the display collection. It can be easily maintained by currently typing the cards at  the time the titles are typed. It should be kept up to date by removing the cards for any mounted prints permanently withdrawn from the display collection.


The collection contains a number of sequence groups, some of which are actually successive pictures of continuing projects, others merely comparative pictures. Some of them are not very good, and these should be eliminated, as a group, when better sequences become available. A good many of the projects represented will probably never be photographed again. For those that remain active the person in charge of the collection should be on the watch for accessions. The sequences are indicated in the attached complete classified list of pictures in the display collection, and they are also listed separately on a later page. Not very many of them are of projects that are still active.

Summary of Procedure

1. Review all new serially numbered project and other prints when received from W.O., serially numbered.

2. Indicate selections on an extra copy of Form 166 bearing photo serial numbers and descriptions.

a. Criteria for selection include photographic quality, subject value (either for general interest, or to fill a gap in display collection, or extend a sequence), avoidance of duplication, and adequacy of description to furnish a self-explanatory title.

[page 4] 4 - The Director - July 20, 1943

            3.  Prepare display collection titles in longhand, including (a) display collection index number, (b) description (adequate to give the picture a true, definite, and easily understood meaning), (c) location of subject (N.F. and State, experimental forest and State, nearest town, county and State, or more precise location where indicated by nature of picture), (d) name of individual who took the picture, (e) date of exposure (month and year), and (f) Forest Service serial number.  Titles best prepared at time of selection.

            4.  When enough selections (30 or more) have been made to justify it, prepare and submit to W.O. a requisition for printing and mounting (on white sides of cards) the selected prints, giving their serial numbers only.

            5.  On receipt of mounted prints, type the previously prepared titles on gummed paper, and paste on cards above horizontal and to the left of vertical prints.

            6.  Type the serial number and the display class number and designation for each picture on a 3" x 5" file card.

            7.  File the mounted prints and the index cards.

            8.  Review the collection from time to time to remove pictures (and corresponding file index cards) for which there are better substitutes, and to take note of gaps or weak spots in the collection.  Notify director and staff of character of pictures needed to improve collection.

            9.  Continue the sequences representing active projects.


            1.  On the average, probably half the value of a display picture is in its title.  Some views may get along with very little title; for example, a picture of an individual tree or group of trees, representing a given species or forest type, actually need sonly the species or type name and the locality.  But even in these instances, additional information may greatly increase the picture value.  The titles of many of the species and type pictures already in the collection are subject to criticism on this score.  As a matter of system, the author's name and the date of exposure should always be given even though actually less important for such views than for project pictures. 


[page 5] 5 - The Director - July 20, 1943

to encourage the staff to take desirable pictures solely for this collection, incidental to the project pictures, with emphasis upon filling gaps and weak spots in the display file.  And the person in charge of the display collection should consider every picture reviewed not only as to its merit for the technical subject it was taken to illustrate but also with reference to some entirely different place in the display collection.

        3.  As a rule, only the best single picture of a panorama has been included in the collection.  In the few instances in which all the pictures of a panorama have been admitted they are mounted on separate cards.

        4.  Most of the pictures are of original negative size, so that anyone wishing to order duplicates may be guided as to enlargement.  When it is desired to blow up a small picture, W.O. should be instructed to "enlarge 2 times" or "3 times", and the magnitude of enlargement should be shown on the card.

        5.  It would be well to prohibit removal of pictures from the library, at least without leaving charge cards.  Users of the display collection should be cautioned to observe care in replacing pictures behind their proper guide cards.  There is some advantage, also, in maintaining the order of Forest Service serial numbers; it dates the successive pictures of any group.

        6.  It may be found useful to keep the typed classified list of pictures up-to-date for easy reference.  It can be done currently without very much effort.  It may also be useful to maintain the display collection card index by adding cards for all new pictures.  Incidentally, the general card index bearing F.S. serial numbers and research project designations affords a useful means of finding file descriptions of floating prints; it has not been kept up-to-date.

        7.  It is taken for granted that staff members will maintain the high quality of project and other pictures by careful selection of picture stations, proper lighting and timing, avoidance of spottiness from too contrasty light and shade, use of filters where indicated, are in position of humus in the picture, etc.  One defect of some repeat picture series extending over a considerable period of years (e.g., the Biltmore thinning pictures) is that the camera stations were not located with reference to what the stand might look like after later treatments.  Where a sequence over a time period is intended, perhaps it would be a good plan to set up more than one camera station for each series of views.  At least this might be worth a trial.

        8.  For all repeat pictures it is highly desirable to use a camera of same focal length throughout the duration of the experiment.

        9.  It is well to emphasize again the desirability of weeding out the display collection from time to time, removing inferior picture where better ones have subsequently been filed.  There should also be a special effort to fill gaps and weak spots in the collection.