Communication and Media

The Launching of FORTEPAN IOWA: A Public Digital Photo Archive of Iowa's History

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 19:00
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 19:00
FORTEPAN IOWA, a public digital photo archive of Iowa's history developed at the University of Northern Iowa, is the first of its kind in Iowa and the United States, and is unique in that it features curated photos taken by ordinary Iowans over the twentieth century. Because the photographs of FORTEPAN IOWA will be available for free public download and carry a Creative Commons license, the open-source platform will inspire visitors to engage digitally with the high-quality images—a rare opportunity in a heavily copyrighted age, and a significant contribution to the digital humanities, history education and digital literacy. Unlike other photo archives that arrange images according to collection donor or subject matter, the FORTEPAN interface conveys history chronologically, so it will be easily searchable.  The project has been funded in part by a UNI Capacity Building grant and a Humanities Iowa grant. The online collection is called FORTEPAN IOWA because it is the first international sister site to the Hungarian FORTEPAN project, founded by Miklós Tamási and András Szepessy in 2009. Bettina Fabos, associate professor of visual communication in the Dept. of Communication Studies, first developed the idea for the project after meeting with FORTEPAN directors in Hungary during her Fulbright fellowship. The name FORTEPAN comes from the name of a well-known Hungarian photographic film that was made from 1922 to 2007. Fabos; Leisl Carr Childers, history dept.; Sergey Golitsynskiy, communication studies; and Noah Doely, art department, are among the UNI faculty working on this project. Those same faculty members are currently working on a NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant for the project. FORTEPAN IOWA is based on the Hungarian FORTEPAN project and will display thousands of photographs along a sliding interactive timeline and invite visitors to horizontally scroll through highly curated, well-documented photographs digitized at tremendously high resolution.   FORTEPAN IOWA will launch with at least 2,000 photos in the archive. Many of these have been obtained with the assistance of students in UNI's Interactive Digital Studies program. The photos represent the broad span of the twentieth century, and contain images of everyday life from across Iowa: recreation, family gatherings, fairs and festivals, political events, agricultural activities, business and innovation (e.g., the archive has extraordinary photos of the earliest John Deere facilities), education and much more. The archive avoids the typical "great men" version of history, and instead presents Iowa history democratically, from a grassroots perspective. András Török, managing director of Summa Artium and a representative of the original FORTEPAN project in Budapest, Hungary, will visit and speak at the launch event.