Inside The New York Times' Stunning Photo Archive, the 'Lively Morgue'

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An original documentary produced by Tumblr interviews the archivists and curators of the newspaper's century-old collection of photos. The archive, known as the "morgue," has been digitally reincarnated as the Lively Morgue, a Tumblr blog of eye-popping images. 

The sheer quantity of images in the archive is amazing. The blog, in its "about" section, tries to tally it up:

By the time of the First World War, readers were seeing extraordinary images every week of the conflict ravaging Europe. Early in the 20th century, The Times even had its own picture agency, Wide World Photos.

It was an era of bold global exploration to the North and South Poles. Aviation was evolving at breathtaking speed. Russia was in revolt. Pictures. New York took its place as a global cultural capital. The world was again convulsed in a war that ended with the atomic bomb. More pictures. Civil rights were won on the battleground, while explorers turned their sights to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Pictures and more pictures.

How many? We don’t know. Our best guess is five million to six million prints and contact sheets (each sheet, of course, representing many discrete images) and 300,000 sacks of negatives, ranging in format size from 35 millimeter to 5 by 7 inches — at least 10 million frames in all. The picture archive also includes 13,500 DVDs, each storing about 4.7 gigabytes worth of imagery. When the Museum of Modern Art set out to exhibit the highlights of the Times archive in 1996, it dispatched four curators. They spent nine months poring over 3,000 subjects, working with two Times editors, one of whom spent a year on the project. In the end, they estimated that they’d seen only one-quarter of the total.

Check out the blog here. This documentary is one in a new series called Storyboard, which is part of Tumblr's latest efforts to create more original content. Storyboard will focus on interesting ways people have made use of Tumblr's platform, they explain in the introduction to the series below. 

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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