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Early Photographic Formats and Processes in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

About the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

The Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) maintains and makes available the University's unique collections of manuscripts, archives, photographs, and books. Subject strengths include:

We acknowledge that materials in SCARC collections and the language that describes them may be harmful. We are actively working to address our descriptive practices; for more information please see our SCARC Anti-Racist Actions Statement.

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center public service point is located in the Reading Room on the 5th Floor of the Valley Library at Oregon State University. If you plan to visit us, please check our calendar.

See our Guide to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center for more on how to visit SCARC, find our collections, and research tips.

How to Use this Guide

This guide is not intended as a comprehensive review of all of SCARC's rich and diverse photographic collections, content, and formats, but rather as an initial access point for research into early photographic formats and processes. It would be useful as a course companion, or as a layman's guide for those interested in the history and evolution of photography.

The tab, or page, for each image type includes a brief history of the image type ("Historical Context"), a list of SCARC collections containing those types of images (and the boxes in which those images are found), and a link to digitized images of that particular type. Please note that not all images referenced for each type are digitized; many of the images referenced in this guide must be viewed in person in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room (Valley Library, 5th floor).

Image types included in the guide are roughly grouped chronologically. Dates listed for each image type are the years during which that particular format / process was widely available, and in common use.

Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O'Connor's book Photographs : Archival Care and Management was an invaluable resource in the writing of this guide; their work provided the majority of the historical context for each image type. The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall was also used.

SCARC Services

In order to provide more efficient and effective service, the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) is offering on-site access to our collections by-appointment. Advance notice of your visit and research interests allows us to better assist you in identifying materials relevant to your research, and provide more efficient service during your on-site visit. A by-appointment model also allows us to limit Reading Room disruptions, and focus on you and on your research needs.

We will continue to respond to general and reference questions remotely via our department email, There is a wealth of online content in Oregon Digital, on the SCARC website, in ScholarsArchive@OSU, in SCARC LibGuides, and on OSU MediaSpace, and public services staff are available to assist you in navigating and searching these sites. In some cases, by working closely with our archivists and librarians, and identifying a limited amount of specific materials, we may be able to support your research remotely through digitization. 

Please see our Guide to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center for more information about our by-appointment model, and other services.

Contact Us!

Your archivists are here to help!

Staff of the library’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center are available for virtual reference consultations. Please email us at if you have questions or would like to set up an appointment.