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Photograph Research

Online OHC Digital Images

Yvonne Walker-Taylor and friends on horseback photograph

Online Digital Images from our Collections

Digital images from our collections can be found online on Ohio Memory (Free digital library containing over 400,000 digital images representing every county in the state).

Archives Catalog

Archives Catalog

You can search our photograph collections using our Archives Catalog for Manuscripts, Audio/Visual and State Archives. You can try adding the term “graphic” or the term "photograph*" to your search term(s) to limit the search results to photographic collections only. For example, a search for "Civil War" AND "graphic" will show results that include photographic materials associated with the United States Civil War, 1861-1865. A search for "Lake Erie" AND "photograph*" will show results that include photographic materials that relate to Lake Erie.

Search The Archives Catalog


Discover state and local government records, manuscript collections, photographs, posters and more!


Search Strategies

Search Strategies

Searching for photographs can be challenging. Here are some strategies for searching for photographs of people and places.


Very few photographs are cataloged or identified by the names of the individual people pictured. A broad search strategy may open new avenues to finding photographs of people in the past. For example, when searching for a photograph of someone who served in our state legislature, a name search may not bring any results. Try searching “House of Representatives”, “Senate” or “General Assembly” to find collections of images that may include the Representative or Senator.

When searching for photographs of people, it may be helpful to think about why someone would have had their picture taken. Perhaps they participated in a newsworthy event, or were a member of an organization, attended a particular church or school. Printed histories, yearbooks, and other books may be illustrated with photographs.


Very few photographs are individually identified by street address. When searching for photographs of places, it may be helpful to think about why someone would have taken a picture of the place. Look for collections that may include the neighborhood or area of interest.

Try searching for broad concepts. if you are looking for images of the Ohio Statehouse or the Ohio Penitentiary, try searching "Buildings" AND "Columbus". Search for landmarks nearby, such as churches or businesses. Local historical societies and libraries may have photograph collections of local interest.

It's been said that all history is local. You may want to contact local historical societies and area public libraries that may have local history collections.

Researching the history of a property and the people who have lived there may uncover photographs along the way!


Identifying People and Places

Who are these people? Identifying People and Places

Identifying a photograph from contextual clues in the photograph will often involve finding someone familiar with events, the things pictured in the photograph, the local area, its history and landmarks.

Look carefully at the image. Are there any street signs, addresses or other identifying features? Try researching visual clues with newspapers and city directories to identify locations.

Look at the back of the photograph. Is it dated? Is the photographer identified? Has anyone written the names of the people pictures?

If you suspect the photograph includes family members, share the photographs with your extended family. Tap their knowledge and ask if they have additional photographs.

Try a Reverse Image Search using Google Image Search, Google Lens or other online tools to find similar images.

Use the power of social media. Share the image on social media platforms and invite people to share their knowledge or best guesses.

Caring for Photographs

Caring for Photographs

Preserving Your Photographs

  • Keep photographs in a cool (around 65°F), relatively dry (relative humidity 35-45%), clean and stable environment.
  • Avoid attics and basements.
  • Minimize exposure to all kinds of light.
  • Store photographs away from radiators and vents.
  • Have digital images printed using a photographic process.
  • Save digital images in multiple places.

Storing Family Photographs

  • Store all prints and negatives in acid-free boxes. If possible, keep negatives separate from prints.
  • Protect cased photographs (e.g., daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) in acid-free paper envelopes and store flat.
  • Many commercially available albums use archival-quality materials. Avoid magnetic "sticky page" albums.
  • Handle photographs with care. Wear cotton or nitrile gloves when handling photographs and negatives.

Sharing Your Stories

  • Do not mark photographs, even on the back side.
  • Paper sleeves or folders provide space to add descriptions in pencil.
  • Consider making a photo book to share.