About the Project
The Cornell Institute for Resource Information Sciences (IRIS) maintains a large and comprehensive collection of aerial photographs for New York State dating from 1936 through 1995. The archive numbers some 50,000 images that cover 48 counties, many counties of which have at least three years of historic sequence. The photographs are primarily black and white direct contact prints, and in hard copy form they measure from 7” x 9” to 9” x 9” in size; scales vary.
Historic aerial photographs are valuable resources for landscape and land use analysis, assessment of environmental impacts, development projects and education. Although these images are not geo-referenced, they are nevertheless useful instruments for exploring the past by examining changes in properties, neighborhoods and land use in general. In addition, historical, chronological, environmental, or architectural information about particular sites over a period of time can also be examined. Although discrete points on the earth’s surface are not referenced, one can roughly compare land changes when these aerial photographs are examined from year to year.
Over the years, various users and in particular, the Cornell community consisting of faculty, students and staff, have continued to access the IRIS archive for classroom and applied research projects. While the historic character of the archive has continued to increase in value, wear and tear on the IRIS images and potential life expectancy became a significant concern. It was determined that the collection needed to be preserved yet access continued and enhanced to the best extent possible.
Converting the analog images to digital was determined to be the best alternative for archiving the aerial photographs and was seen as a positive alternative to enhancing user access without further degradation to the original images. As resources become available, the electronic aerial photographic library will be expanded.
This collection has been made available through partial funding from the 2005 Faculty Grants for Digital Library Collections: Advancing E-Scholarship program.