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Digitization at the Click of a Shutter: Works of California Photographers Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones Now Online

Thousands of images by California photographers Ruth-Marion Baruch (1922–1997) and Pirkle Jones (1914–2009) are now digitized and available online (many for the first time!) on Calisphere and UC Santa Cruz University Library Digital CollectionsThey are also available at the Digital Library of America (DPLA).

Kathleen Cleaver and Black Panthers, Free Huey Rally, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park, 1968

Over 6,000 photographic negatives by the artists were digitized through a collaboration between UC Santa Cruz and CDL. UC Santa Cruz curators selected three groups of images to digitize from the collection of 12,000 photographic prints and 30,000 negatives by the artists: A Photographic Essay on the Black Panthers (1968-1969)a collaboration that Baruch and Jones undertook to promote a better understanding of the Panthers; The Death of A Valley (1956)a collaboration between Jones and Dorothea Lange that documented the final year in the life of Monticello, a town in Berryessa Valley that disappeared underwater after the completion of the Monticello Dam; and additional series and photos focusing on San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, including Walnut Grove: Portrait of a Town (1964) another collaboration between Baruch and Jones.

Boy walking with dog between housing, 1960

Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones were part of the first class to attend the new photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) founded by Ansel Adams just after World War II. Other faculty included photographers Minor White, Dorothea Lange, and Imogen Cunningham. Baruch and Jones met in the program and married in 1949.

Their digitized photos provide a profound look into California in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. They capture rural and urban life, most often outside the mainstream, and portray poverty, upheaval, everyday life, and change. The images range from the vast landscapes of the Central Valley, to the Black Panthers’ political rallies, to the experience of agricultural workers, yet they frequently focus on children or the interaction between people and animals.

Digitization Pilot #2

Black Panther feeding son, at Free Huey Rally, De Fremery Park, Oakland, 1968

The Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones images were digitized as the second pilot in a UC Libraries project with the goal of developing a fast, efficient, cost-effective digitization process for non-book materials. Last year, for the project’s first pilot, UC Riverside digitized close to 6,000 photos of the Jay Kay Klein collection depicting World Science Fiction Conventions (“WorldCon“) during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Untitled from Walnut Grove: Portrait of a Town, 1961

Incorporating lessons learned from the first pilot, UC Santa Cruz, CDL, and digitization vendor Pixel Acuity collaborated to a define a workflow to produce high quality digital images and metadata as quickly as possible at the lowest possible cost. UC Santa Cruz identified the Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones collection as a good pilot candidate as the metadata was basically ready to go and they held the rights. The selected subset of the collection was quickly scanned in only four days. Both initial pilots have successfully demonstrated the potential for high throughput approaches to digitizing special collections, getting unique content out to users efficiently and at scale.  CDL’s Mass Digitization and Publishing & Special Collections teams will be working with other campuses and collections to further experiment with and refine this mass digitization approach.

A Note on Image Metadata

Some images may have titles and other metadata that is incomplete or inaccurate or may reflect historical biases and terminology. The titles provided for individual images was adapted from what was provided by the artists. Many of the images are titled “untitledbecause they were never printed or displayed by the photographers (and were thus never given titles).  In these cases, the UC Santa Cruz library listed descriptive information from the donor’s inventory in the SubSeries Title field to provide context about the subject of the photographs.

For More Information

Unidentified migrant worker brought to the valley for the last harvest, 1956
Audience listening to Eldridge Cleaver speak, on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, 1968
The cutting of massive oak tree, 1956