The Jewish Public Library Archives houses close to 17,000 historic photographs, dating from the late 19th Century to current day.
The images capture the visual memory of the Montreal Jewish community as it is defined through great writers, artists and poets,
the organizations and institutions that drive the community, the events that shape our history and future and the families that built
it all. Photographs not only provide pleasing images, they have the ability to evoke emotion and understanding where sometimes plain
text fails. The value of these images to researchers is monumental as it engages the public in so many different ways.
In spring 2006, the JPL Archives initiated a project to re-structure the arrangement and description of the Photograph Collection.
To find photographs prior to this project, one had to shift through subject index cards that provided only the barest of descriptions.
Many of the photographs also had accompanying cards that provided contextual information; however, these cards could be and were often easily lost.
Using Rules for Archival Description standards, the Archives began the task of evaluating current arrangement, pulling each photograph, re-describing
it as well as researching any additional information, and then entering the information into a searchable database. The photographs were also
treated for any preservation issues and proper storage was initiated. Currently over 7500 photographs have been handled and work continues
steadily on the rest of the Collection.
The JPL-A is also exploring the opportunity of placing the database on-line so that researchers may search through the Collection
from anywhere. This feature would also provide on-line preview images from records.
The project started by grants from Archives nationale du Québec and the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations program,
also received significant additional funding from the Birks Family Foundation. Birks' generosity will allow the Archives to
complete the major first phase of the project, work that will ensure these photographs will be accessible for future generations
and researchers in and out of the community.