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Researchers Help

3 Posts authored by: Corbin Apkin Expert

The National Archives holds 35 million aerial photographs. Navigating all of the different Record Groups and series can be a challenge. The Cartographic Branch, who holds the majority of the aerial photography at the National Archives, wanted to make it easier for researchers to be able to learn how to research various types of aerial photography. As a result, we created a new web page that details all of the different types of aerial photography held at NARA: Aerial Photography. The aim of the web page is to consolidate information for all of the aerial photography holdings at NARA in one place that is easy to navigate. While the web page currently includes information for aerial photography in the Cartographic Branch, we plan to add information regarding aerial photography in the Still Picture Branch and field sites this fiscal year.

 

To begin using the aerial photography web page, researchers can select what type of records they are looking for: domestic photography, foreign photography, or satellite photography.

 

 

Selecting any of these options will open another page detailing how to go about researching these records and what Record Groups are available.

 

 

Clicking on each link will bring you to a page that describes how to access the aerial photography for that specific Record Group.

 

Each page provides detailed information about how to access indexes for photography and the photography itself. If researchers aren’t sure where to look, the Cartographic Branch reference team can provide links to relevant pages for each researcher who sends a request.

 

The aerial photography web page also provides information on reproductions.

 

 

Researchers can get information about how to reproduce aerial photography before arriving onsite. This way, they can know what to expect and be prepared if they want to copy photography.

 

The aerial photography web page is meant to be a starting point for researchers and to provide them with all of the information they need to be able to research and copy aerial photography. While there are more updates to come, all of the Cartographic holdings are described and available for researchers. As previously mentioned, Still Picture aerial photography holdings, as well as aerial photography at field sites, will be added in the coming year.

 

Please direct any questions about the web page or any general aerial photography questions to the aerial photography Subject Matter Expert at corbin.apkin@nara.gov.

Aerial photographs for the Forest Service are held in a series in Record Group 95, Aerial Photographs, 1932 - 2011. The search for these photographs begins with Special List 25, which provides information on all available domestic photography. This list is available for download digitally here and in the Cartographic Research Room.

 

Special List 25, RG 95 Aerial Photographs

 

While you search this list by state, thereunder by county, the indexes for the photographs are filed under the name of the National Forest or the project symbol. This can be found in the “Filed Under” field.

 

The search item listed in the “Filed Under” field corresponds to indexes in the series Indexes to Aerial Photography, 1932 - 2010.

 

You can search the National Archives Catalog to see if the indexes are available for a specific National Forest by following these instructions:

 

Step 1: Navigate to catalog.archives.gov.

Step 2: Click on the "Advanced Search" button next to the main search bar.

Step 3: Enter the following search data:

 

Search Term: Enter "Indexes to Aerial Photography for (forest name) National Forest". Ex: Indexes to Aerial Photography for Beaverhead National Forest

 

Record Group: Enter "95"

 

Level of Descriptions: Select "File Unit"

 

Location of Archival Materials: Select "National Archives at College Park - Cartographic"

 

Scroll to the bottom of the search page and click "Search".

 

 

You will then see the search results for the available indexes:

 

Step 4: Click on the file unit from the search results

 

Step 5: Click on the "Search within this file unit" button. This will bring up all of the digitized sheets for the file unit.

 

You can then click on each sheet to view it.

 

The indexes include line index maps and photomosaics that show the available coverage for each listed National Forest or project and the corresponding date of the photographs. You can search the index for your specific area of interest.

 

RG 95, Indexes to Aerial Photography, Beaverhead National Forest, 1960, EIN, Sheet 1

 

 

The first number in the line is the roll number for the line of photographs. The circles in the line indicate available photographic coverage. Each circle represents a different photograph. Circles without an exposure number can be counted from the previous provided number to determine which exposure number it represents on the film can. The symbol, roll and exposure creates a citation which can be used to locate the film can where the photographs are held. (ex: EIN-8-217)

 

Information about the photographs, including the forest name, project and symbol, can be found on the index.

 

 

Photomosaic indexes for RG 95 are similar to the line indexes for finding photographs.

 

RG 95, Indexes to Aerial Photography, Ashley National Forest, 1964, ELS, Sheet 1

 

 

Like with the line indexes, the spot you locate on the index will include a project symbol, roll and frame number (ex: ELS-6-140).

 

Information about the photographs, including the forest name, project and symbol, can be found on the index.

 

 

The symbol, roll and exposure numbers from any RG 95 indexes correspond to a film can on the RG 95 Can Locator. Paper and digital versions of the can locator are available onsite in the Cartographic Research Room.

 

RG 95, Aerial Photographs Can Locator

 

 

These film cans may be ordered in the Cartographic Research Room. Cans with an “ON” identifier are original negatives which are stored at the Lenexa Federal Records Center. These cans may be ordered in the Cartographic Research Room and will be shipped to arrive within three business days. They cannot be viewed at the Lenexa facility. If you already have a researcher card, you can order ON cans ahead of your visit to our site. Some ON cans for this record group are stored in the same facility as the Cartographic Research Room. These are noted in the can locator  with a “DN” identifier and can be ordered and viewed onsite.

 

Once you order the cans that must be shipped from Lenexa and they arrive, you can view and copy them in the Cartographic Research Room. We have light tables which allow you to view the film and take photographs on a personal camera. We also have aerial film scanners available. If you have a USB capable laptop, you can bring it to our research room and scan the photographs to your computer. You can learn more about aerial film reproductions here.

 

If you have any questions about these photographs, you may contact the Cartographic Branch at carto@nara.gov.

The National Archives Cartographic Branch holds aerial photographs of the United States covering the years 1935 - 2011. Domestic photography can be found in several different series of records. This post will cover aerial photographs in Record Group 57: Records of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

 

Special List 25 is the starting point for accessing any domestic aerial photography. This Special List provides information on which record groups and series hold photographs for specific domestic locations. It is available digitally on-site or by request by emailing the Cartographic Branch at carto@nara.gov. Additionally, a paper copy is available in the Cartographic research room, located at Archives 2, in College Park, Maryland. The list is arranged by state and thereunder by county.

 

Once you navigate to the county that includes your specific area of interest, you can see all of the series where relevant photographs can be found. You can then sort by record group and date.

 

 

Aerial photographs for the USGS can be found in the series Record Group 57: Aerial Photography, 1935 - 1966. You can access these records by first using the associated indexes: Aerial Photography Indexes, ca. 1935 - 1966. Digitized copies of the indexes are available for viewing and copying on a shared drive in the Cartographic research room. The project symbol listed in Special List 25 can be cross referenced with a spreadsheet on this drive, which provides the digitized folder where these particular indexes are held.

 

For example, the photographs for Bayfield, Rusk, and Sawyer Counties in Wisconsin are all under the project symbol of “AL.”

 

 

This symbol can be found in the Special List entry for these counties. From there, you can cross reference the project symbol to the spreadsheet available on the shared drive. Looking at the project “AL” in this spreadsheet will lead you to the digital index identifiers for these counties.

 

 

Once you find your project symbol in this spreadsheet, you can see which digitized indexes cover your area of interest. The scans are arranged into folders by cassette number. The first digits in the “Scan” field will tell you which cassette to navigate to. In this case it’s 01 (010021).

 

 

From the cassette folder, you can navigate directly to the scans that match the number from the “Scan” field in the spreadsheet.

 

 

The indexes are mosaics of available photography. You can search for your specific area of interest on the mosaic. Once you find your spot of interest, a frame number will be shown in the image, which corresponds to a frame number on a film can.

 

 

RG 57, Aerial Photography Indexes (NAID 305470), AL

 

 

Once you have your citation (ex: AL-1-10), you can find the film can where this photograph is held using our RG 57 Can Locator. This database is available digitally on-site or by request by emailing the Cartographic Branch at carto@nara.gov.

 

 

In this case, you can search for the symbol “AL” and the roll “1.” All of the photographs for this project will be on this can and the individual frame numbers can be found on the film. The photographs for AL-1 are on the film can ON175298, Barcode T357922606. Cans with an ON identifier are original negatives which are stored at the Lenexa Federal Records Center. These cans can be ordered in the Cartographic research room and arrive within three business days. If you already have a researcher card, you can order ON cans ahead of your visit to our site.

 

Once you order the cans and they arrive at our facility, you can view and copy them in the Cartographic research room. We have light tables which allow you to view the film and take photographs on a personal camera. We also have aerial film scanners available. If you have a USB capable laptop, you can bring it to our research room and scan the photographs to your computer.

 

RG 57, Aerial Photography (NAID 305471), AL-1-10 (available online at USGS EarthExplorer, entity ID AR1AL0000010010).

 

 

Additionally, a number of photographs from this series can be found already scanned on the USGS EarthExplorer website.

 

Follow these steps to search for specific aerial images:

 

1. Search Criteria: Set your Search Criteria using the options given

 

You can enter a date range to narrow down your search.

 

 

2. Data Sets: Select "Aerial Imagery," then "Aerial Photo Single Frames"

 

 

3. Additional Criteria: Enter the project identifier into the "Project" field

 

 

4. Click "Results"

 

 

You will then see a list of the photographs for this project with thumbnails of the photographs. Once you click on the thumbnail you will see a larger entry which includes the photograph and metadata. You can also order images from the USGS via the link provided with each search result.

 

USGS EarthExplorer, Entity ID AR1AL0000120011

 

 

If you prefer to view the original film at the National Archives, you can do so in the Cartographic research room.

 

Photographs from Record Group 57 are a great resource for domestic aerial photography. They are just one part of the large collection of aerial photography available in the Cartographic Branch. We will be providing additional blog posts on accessing aerial photography from other record groups in the future.

 

If you have any questions regarding aerial photographs from RG 57, you can email the Cartographic Branch at carto@nara.gov or the Aerial Photography Subject Matter Expert at corbin.apkin@nara.gov.