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The 1940 Tax Photos—A Well-Traveled Collection

On November 1, 2018, the Municipal Archives announced that the long-awaited project to digitize the 1940 ‘tax’ photograph collection was complete and all of the 720,000 images now are online in the agency’s photo gallery.

It required more than thirty years, many thousands of dollars and hours of labor, plus two cross-country trips. But we think it’s fair to say that the tax photographs have now reached their full potential as one of the most important research resources in the Municipal Archives.

The digitization project is only the latest chapter in the story of the 1940 tax photographs. The Archives accessioned the collection from the Department of Finance in 1980. At that time it consisted of 2,047 strips of 35-mm black-and-white nitrate negative film (36 frames per strip), each stored in its original metal canister. The canisters were transferred from the Municipal Records Center; it is not known how long they had been in storage. Despite the less-than-ideal environment at the Center, the negatives were in relatively good condition, suffering only minor shrinkage due to age. Some films were scratched and others exhibited evidence of redox (reduction-oxidation) blemishes, but they did not break when unrolled.

Theresa BorrelloComment