Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Bridges of King County and Other Online Exhibits

3 miles NE of Duvall: Cherry Creek, July 15, 1932. (Series 474, Bridge Number 267Y. Sections 4 and 5, Township 26N, Range 7E.) Courtesy King County Archives.

A nice feature that a digital archive can provide is to highlight digital collections with online exhibits. The Library of Congress has been doing this for years with their American Memory project, such as American Notes, Travels in America, 1750-1920. (In fact they have been doing it so long that the website feels dated--which is perhaps another blog post.) At the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives where I work we try to do the same thing on a more modest level with our Treasures of the Archives feature, which highlight a single image and links back to its collection. (More here.)

The King County Archives is doing a nice job with digital exhibits. Their latest, The Bridges of King County, features an 80-year-old collection of photographs of county bridges. "During the years 1931-1934, County bridge inspector Thomas Patrick Blum traveled throughout King County inspecting and photographing bridges," reads a helpful introduction. "This exhibit presents a sampling of
over 500 bridge photographs attributed to Blum." The archivists also tell us that Blum had "an artist's eye for composition and detail" and that the photographs "show us the range of bridge styles and engineering methods of the time."

The resulting exhibit is both a striking portrait of a King County that is long since gone, and a useful architectural history lesson about bridges and their construction. The images are organized by the type of bridge construction, from "King and Queen Post Truss" to "Concrete Slab." The captions describe the origins and uses of each style. And the photographs are wonderful, particularly those showing a rural King County of dirt roads and shaded country lanes. King County offers other online exhibits from their digital archives, including one of 16mm films from the 1930s.

Does your favorite digital archive offer online exhibits? Here at the Washington State Archives we are exploring the option, and would love to see more examples.