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State Historical Society makes more historic digital photos available

State Historical Society makes more historic digital photos available

This photo shows a child running from an approaching snowplow, pushed by a train, near Redfield, taken in 1897. This image, from a glass plate, is from the Lester Black Collection held at the South Dakota State Archives at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre and recently made accessible via the South Dakota Digital Archives.

A grant received for the scanning of glass plates has made almost 600 images from a photo collection of the South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre available to the public.

The grant allowed for the scanning of 589 glass plates from the Lester Black Collection. The images date from the late 1890s to 1910s. The State Historical Society received the glass plates in 1986.

To access the Lester Black digital collections, visit the State Archives website at and find the link to “Lester Black.”

The digitization and cataloging of glass plate negatives has been funded in part by a grant from the City of Deadwood and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission. In addition to the Lester Black Collection, other glass plate negative collections that have been digitized include the Myra Morton Miller, Eliza Dibble, and Wandell Mooney collections.

“The photo digitization project is allowing us to reformat the photos and place them in an easily accessible platform, the South Dakota Digital Archives,” said Chelle Somsen, state archivist. “These images of our state are a wonderful representation of early activities.”

Specific locations found within the Lester Black Collection include the Redfield College, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Corn Palace, Sylvan Lake and the South Dakota State Fair.

Town images include Redfield, Gettysburg, Mitchell, Elk Point, Huron, Waubay, Hot Springs, and Pierre.

Other topics include sod homes, Native American encampments, floods, railroad scenes, stone artifacts, farm scenes, automobiles, a balloon flight, baseball games, and family portraits.

The South Dakota Digital Archives, an online resource, was launched in January 2012 by the State Archives to provide researchers digital access to unique historical records. There are currently more than 33,000 images available for viewing.

The photograph digitization project is funded by private donations and grants. If you are interested in sponsoring a photograph collection, please contact the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the fund-raising partner of the State Historical Society, at (605) 773-6001.

The State Archives is a program of the South Dakota State Historical Society. State Archives staff are available to help assist with research and can be reached at (605) 773-3804 or For more information, visit

The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Tourism. The Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism, the South Dakota Arts Council, and the State Historical Society. The Department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

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