2011-06-23 / Front Page

Photos documenting history of N.J. farming available online

The state has unveiled an online data and image bank for thousands of photographs that document the history of farming in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDOA) collected more than 7,000 photos that date from the late 19th century through the 1970s. Of these, more than 2,000 photos have been scanned into the online bank for public viewing. The images can be seen at www.njarchives.org/links/agphotos. html, according to a press release from the state.

“This major historical resource created by the New Jersey State Archives is a monumental achievement,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who, as secretary of state, oversees the Division of Archives and Records Management that operates the state archives, said in the press release. “It illustrates not only the history of farming, but also the dedication of archivists to making that history accessible.” In 1984, the state archives acquired a vast collection of historical photographs from the NJDOA, originating as a public information photo file soon after the department was created in 1916. The images were used for publication in bulletins, reports and press releases as well as to document agriculture and related industries in New Jersey. Seven decades later, the collection had grown to 90 boxes, according to the press release.

“Our photographs tell the story of New Jersey agriculture and demonstrate the department’s mission to support and promote agribusiness and educate the public to agriculture’s vital role in the state,” Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said in the press release. “We’re called the Garden State, and these images show us why.”

Several years after the acquisition, the state archives began organizing and preserving the photos. The project began with the efforts of volunteer George Coyne, who devoted many hours to placing the original prints and negatives into archival sleeves and containers. The archives staff later created a database to index the pictures by subject and key words, and began scanning selected images to represent each subject area. About 40 percent of the collection has been scanned so far, and the images are now linked to database entries. The end result of the 20-year project is an online resource for the general public, historians and museums worldwide, according to the press release.

The unveiling ceremony took place at Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Township, an educational facility operated by the Mercer County Park Commission that preserves and interprets the history of farming life and processes dating from 1890 to1910, according to the press release.

“Howell Farm uses these images now to do its work as a living-history site,” Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said in the press release. “They show us how farmers moved and dressed as they did their work … the tools and machinery they implemented… how they cooperated to get their job done. It’s a remarkable source of information, and also just beautiful vignettes of bygone days.”

The NJDOA plans to contribute a current collection of agriculture photos to the archives project in an effort to continue to document the industry’s growth and advances, according to the press release.

The state archives building, located at 225 W. State St. in Trenton, holds nearly 40,000 cubic feet of permanent, historical records dating back to the British colonization of New Jersey in 1664 and nearly 30,000 reels of state, county, municipal and federal records on microfilm. The state archives are New Jersey’s official public research center for genealogy, local history, and the study of political, economic and social issues. Less than 1 percent of all records produced by government are kept permanently, according to the press release.

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