Press Release
Press Release · Thursday, December 18, 1997

Press Release
December 18, 1997
Extensive Mathew Brady Collection Available on National Archives Web Site

Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has made available on its web site its entire collection of Civil War-era photographs taken by the famed photographer Mathew Brady and his associates. The 6,176 photographs, originating as glass plate negatives, include portraits of well-known Union and Confederate commanders of the war, Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet officers, senators, congressmen, and other noted personalities of the day. They also document the existence of ordinary soldiers, recording daily life in camp, troops on the move, battlefield scenes, naval vessels, railroads, supply dumps, and hospitals.

Purchased by the War Department in 1874-75, and accessioned by the National Archives in 1940, the images represent a Brady-coordinated effort, unprecedented in scope and creative self-promotion, to record history-making American personages, locales, and events in what was then the relatively new medium of photography. Especially with regard to the views taken in the field, the photographs by Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, David Knox, and others reveal the technical limitations of the medium at mid-century, photographers’ strategies for overcoming those limitations, and a reality that emerges, amid the posing and framing, in often unexpected ways. These are images, so rich in detail and so evocative of time, place, and human consciousness that have informed and intrigued viewers from the 1860's to the 1990's.

The ability to get ready access to NARA’s entire collection of Brady photographs, and to be able to compare those images with similar ones in other collections, will greatly assist scholars and other researchers interested in the visual documentation of the Civil War.

The Brady material is part of NARA’s third installment of digitized images of some of its most significant documents. As part of NARA’s Electronic Access Project, this third monthly release totals 5,507 items from the Cartographic and Architectural Branch and the Still Pictures Branch located at the National Archives at College Park; the Textual Reference Division located at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC; the Northeast Region located in New York City; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library located in Hyde Park, NY; and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library located in Abilene, KS.

More than 300,000 descriptions and 20,000 digitized documents are currently in NAIL (NARA ARCHIVAL INFORMATION LOCATOR). By mid-1999, approximately 120,000 items will be digitized and available electronically. The Electronic Access Project will enable anyone, anywhere, with a computer connected to the Internet to search descriptions of NARA's nationwide holdings and view digital copies of many important documents. The project is funded by the U.S. Congress with the support of Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

Other highlights of the recently added materials include:

  • 1,320 additional photographs documenting American environmental issues of the 1970's;
  • 62 watercolor drawings by James W. Alden of the northwest boundary between the Rocky Mountains and Point Roberts;
  • 25 documents relating to the Spanish-American War;
  • More than 1,000 photographs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Administration;
  • 11 documents from the 1873 Susan B. Anthony suffrage criminal case file;
  • 29 documents from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage case file;
  • Aerial photographs of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp;
  • Documents from the Eisenhower Administration including Eisenhower's D-Day statement to the Allied Expeditionary Force, a letter from Jackie Robinson, and a memorandum authorizing Francis Gary Powers’ last U-2 flight over the Soviet Union.

    For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or e-mail


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