How to Order Historic Images from Our Research Center

By Gregory Walz Research Center Manager

Two photographs:  one of Ezra Taft Benson taken on February 22, 1953, and one of James and Margaret Reed of the Donner Party fame, the exact date of which is unknown, but is likely from the 1860s.  What do these two images have in common?  Both were ordered by patrons of the Utah State Historical Society Research Center.

The Benson photo was for publication by the University of Utah Press in 2020 in an upcoming book about Ezra Taft Benson and politics, and the other for publication in the Encyclopedia Britannica online for an article about the Donner Party.  The one of Mr. Benson is from one of our largest image collections, the Salt Lake Tribune Negative Collection, and the other is from what we refer to as the Classified Photograph Collection, which was our reference image collection before we began creating our online Digital Collections.

Indeed, one of the most important and popular of the Utah State Historical Society’s collections is the image collection.  This collection contains hundreds of thousands of older photographic prints, negatives, and some earlier image formats, as well as some films.  Most are in black and white, but there are a number of color ones too. 

About twenty percent of the image collection is digitized and is part of the online Digital Collections that can be viewed and searched via our website.  This includes the two images mentioned above.  Here is a link to that collection: ) 

Each image in our online Digital Collections has a free lower-or-medium resolution digital download available; just click on the download item option in the top-left corner above each enlarged image.   

The other approximately eighty-percent of our image collection can be searched for in our online Library Catalog, which — if there is a match for a subject, title, or author in the catalog entries — lists the respective catalog entries. Many of these entries also have links to standardized finding aides or guides, which are more detailed written descriptions of the images within their respective folders and boxes.  You can use the word “photograph” after a search term to isolate the search to just the image collections, which receive the Mss (manuscript) C designation.  Patrons can visit our Research Center or contact us by phone or email to have staff examine specific images in more detail that are not part of our online Digital Collections.

Patrons can also order high-resolution digital images for $10 per image, which can then be delivered by file-transfer websites (for no additional charge) or email attachment. We still offer photographic prints as well, although these are made from high-resolution digital files that we upload to a local photography business.  Print options range in size from 4 x 5s for $7 per image, to 20 x 24s that are $55 per image, although it is common for patrons to choose the 8 x 10 size.  Prints are most often picked-up in our Research Center, but we can, of course, mail them for a charge to patrons as well. 

Most of our image orders are destined for private research or personal use, but we also encounter non-commercial or even commercial use – for example, in a publication that is sold.  In the case of commercial use, a separate charge — a use charge – also applies.  For example, this is the case with the use of the images of Mr. Benson and the Reeds mentioned above.  All of the fees we charge are approved by the Utah State Legislature and are used to preserve the valuable image collection.

If you would like to order a high-resolution digital image or a photographic print, you can contact us by email at [email protected], and we will send you an image order and permissions form to start the process.  You can also call or visit us in person in our Research Center, located in the old Rio Grande Railroad depot building in downtown Salt Lake City.