January 24, 2022

Article: The Library of Congress Stops Selling Darkroom-Made Prints

From a Washington City Paper Article: “The Library of Congress Turns the Light Out on Darkrooms”

From the end of the Great Depression until this year, anyone could order a silver gelatin reproduction, printed from negatives, of any image in the Library of Congress’ collection, most recently for about $100 a print. Not any more: After learning in August that his services would no longer be needed, [Franz] Jantzen, one of the library’s last freelance darkroom printers, finished his final batch of photographs from the collection this month.

As a cost-cutting measure, the library’s duplication services no longer include darkroom-made prints. You can still order a digitally printed duplication. Or if you want “Migrant Mother” as wallpaper for your desktop, you can download it for free.

“Digital is the future of information management,” says Jennifer Gavin, the library’s acting director of communications. She says the library chose to stop offering silver gelatin reproductions because of customers’ preference for digital files, the difficulty of acquiring photographic supplies, and overall cost-effectiveness. Plus, many of the library’s new acquisitions are born digital, having never touched a piece of film or existed as a negative.


The end of silver gelatin duplications wasn’t really a surprise. In 2009, Jantzen developed 202 prints for the Library of Congress—and only half that number in 2010. This year saw an even greater decline. Photo duplication has been part of the Library of Congress’ services since 1938, when funds from the Rockefeller Foundation helped establish the program.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.