Note: A portion of the material in this collection has been digitized and is available online. Details at the bottom of this post.
The recent organization and cataloging of the more than 90,000 black-and-white and color images in the Congressional Quarterly Photograph Collection enables researchers to explore U.S. Congressional activities as well as a variety of governmental initiatives, policy issues, and Capitol Hill neighborhood doings. The photos date primarily from 1988 to 2005 and were created by photographers working for Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. This collection is a companion to the Roll Call Photograph Collection, which was cataloged a few years ago.
The format of the photos in the collection can help you see how photographers approached their subjects, providing insights on the goals and challenges of photographing governmental activities—or any activities, for that matter. That’s because you can see the full sequence of images photographers took. The majority of the collection consists of black-and-white negatives, which on-site researchers can look at in the form of contact sheets – entire rolls of 35 mm film contact printed on sheets of photographic paper.
Even more readily accessible are the digitized strips of color negatives. The reversal of colors and overall orange tint in color negatives makes them very hard to read in their original format. For example, what is blue in the real world appears as yellow in a color negative. An innovative use of a flatbed scanner made it possible to create ‘quick reference scans’ that represent the 5,100 strips of 35mm film in recognizable colors and provide legible access to that portion of the collection. What strikes me when I look at these still images is how the photographers’ practice of taking several pictures in quick succession offers an almost motion picture-like glimpse of actions and interactions in progress. We invite you to try this online viewing experience to see if it strikes you the same way.
- View the guide record for the CQ portion of the CQ/Roll Call collection — it summarizes the collection’s contents and points out related resources.
- To delve further: Have a look at descriptions for photographic prints sorted by subject matter, and descriptions for individual contact sheets – more than 4,400 of them! Some of the photographic prints and selected black-and-white negative frames have been digitized.
- Browse the digitized color negatives from the collection and see how many people you can identify!
- Read our earlier blog post about the Roll Call portion of the CQ/Roll Call collection: “Roll Call Photographs: Glimpsing Congress and Capitol Hill, 1988-2000.”