Photographs: Research & Ordering

Subjects: How-To Guides
Tags: arts, how-to, photos

Step 1: Find a Photograph!

Step 1:  Find a photograph in the newspaper.  The Gale Family Library holds photographs from the Minneapolis Star, Tribune, Star Tribune, and the St. Paul Dispatch, Pioneer Press, and Pioneer Press & Dispatch.

Step 2: Locate a Photographer's Name

Step 2:  Note down the date that the photograph appeared in the newspaper and the name of the photographer (if given).  Note, the library only holds photographs for the actual newspaper, not ones supplied by a news service, such as AP Wire or International, or those supplied by individuals.  The photograph should have a photographer's name or say "Staff Photo".

The photograph on the left is one that the library may have either as a print, or in negatives.  Note down the newspaper name (Minneapolis Star), the date it appeared (June 23, 1971), and the photographer's name (Jack Gillis, circled in red). 

The photograph at the right appeared in the January 1, 1958, Minneapolis Star, but the library would not have it because it is marked at the bottom as coming from "International" (the International News Service, circled in red).  

Hint:  Not all photographs will appear in the newspaper immediately after they were taken.  Some photographs may appear days, or even weeks after the event, so be sure to check within the article text to see if there is any additional information available.

Step 3: Check the Printed Photograph Collections

Step 3:  Many of the newspaper photographs are already printed and held in large files, especially portraits.  These collections are divided into portraits, listed alphabetically by last name in the finding aid, and subjects, listed alphabetically by broad topic.   Search using the links below (some of the finding aids are very large and may take several minutes to load):

St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press Portraits

St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press Photographs, arranged by subject

Edina Sun Newspaper Photographs

Minneapolis Star Tribune Portraits

Minneapolis Star Tribune Photographs, arranged by subject

Hint: In the example listings from the St. Paul Pioneer Press Portraits, some photographs are listed as filed with another person.  Look for the "filed with" name in the box as well as the name of the person you are looking for.  The portraits of Senator Humphrey do not appear in one file under his name; they are spread out between boxes, filed with the person(s) he was photographed with.

Request the appropriate box using the collection title and box number given under the word "Location".

Not all the photographs taken by the newspaper were kept in printed form.  If your photograph is not found, try the negatives by continuing to Step 4.

If your photograph is found, skip to Step 6.  


Step 4: Searching for a Negatives Box

Step 4: If the image was not in the printed collections, it may still be in the negatives turned in by the photographer.  These negatives may also include other images that were never published in the newspapers.  The negatives are stored in boxes by date range.  To start your search, find the box with the day before the image ran in the newspaper in the newspaper negatives finding aid linked below:

St. Paul and Minneapolis Newspaper Negatives Collection Finding Aid

Hint: Minneapolis newspaper negatives are listed in boxes by date order first, then the St. Paul negatives.  Make sure you are looking at the correct city!

Hint: If the photo ran in the newspaper on the first day of a month, request the box for the month prior.

After the box is brought out, see Step 5 for handling instructions and how to search.

Step 5: Handling Negatives

Step 5: Each batch of negatives will be in an envelope by date and possibly photographer's name.  There may be multiple envelopes per day, so be sure to check everything in the box.  The date is the day that the photographer turned in the roll of film, not necessarily the date that the event happened.  Start with the date of the event, then start checking envelopes from the day after the event, working towards the date it ran in the newspaper.

Guidelines for handling negatives:

  • Anyone handling negatives is required to wear the nitrile gloves provided with the box.  If the gloves become damaged or too dirty, please see staff for replacements.  Gloves may be thrown away at the end of use.
  • Please take out only one envelope at a time and keep the negatives in order.  This can be critical to determining which photographs are part of the same event, as there are often multiple events in a negatives set.
  • Handle all negatives by the edges at all times. 
  • If any envelopes are damaged, please notify staff so that they can be replaced.

If the photograph(s) you want are located, proceed to Step 6.

Step 6: Ordering Scans

Step 6: Locate a small blue flagging sheet (located near the "Copy Services" window) and write the date, photographer, negative strip number and negative number on the sheet.  Wrap this sheet around the envelope of negatives containing your image to mark the envelope for staff, then return the envelope to the box.

Fill out the Digital Image Reproduction Request Form online.  

Related Research Guides & Webpages

Guide Author

Jenny McElroy
Reference Librarian

MNHS Reference Staff

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St. Paul, MN 55102

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