As digitization standards have evolved throughout the years, NARA has worked to keep up with best practices. However, despite our efforts to stay ahead of the curve, there are still photographs in our Catalog that were digitized many years ago and don’t necessarily meet the requirements to be considered “high resolution.” Specifically, researchers are likely to come across GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files, which is more or less an outdated format in terms of digitization. While we are currently working to replace GIF files in our Catalog, in the meantime, researchers may be able to obtain higher resolution JPG/JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and TIF/TIFF (Tag Image File Format) versions by searching Wikimedia Commons. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to find JPG and TIF files when the only version available in our Catalog is a GIF.*
You find a GIF file in the National Archives Catalog. Highlight and copy the National Archives Identifier number.
Go to Wikimedia Commons and paste the National Archives Identifier into the search bar (located in the top right-hand corner).
If there are any higher resolution copies of the photo available on Wikimedia Commons, the files usually appear within the top 5 search results.
After choosing the file format you want to use (JPG, TIF), click “download.”
Choose file resolution.
GIF version of 412-DA-731 (Santa Cruz, CA in May 1972, Photographer: Dick Rowan)
JPG version of 412-DA-731 (Santa Cruz, CA in May 1972, Photographer: Dick Rowan)
NARA staff have been working to add higher resolution versions to series that were originally uploaded as GIFs, so there are some instances where there are multiple file types available to download from our Catalog. In instances where a GIF and a JPG exist, but there is no TIF version, it is worth searching Wikimedia Commons to see if a TIF is available. The following is an example of that scenario.
*Please be aware that these instructions only apply to older digitization project in which GIFs were the original files uploaded to the Catalog.
A version of this post was originally published on the National Archives' Unwritten Record blog. The Unwritten Record is dedicated to highlighting special media holdings at NARA. Check it out!