HONOLULU (KHON2) – Today, many of us have a smartphone and with it comes a high-quality camera and the newer generations only improve the quality of the camera, which could lead us to think we are really good photographers, but we do not realize a lot of this is automatic. 

Imagine, over 100 years ago trying to take a picture with this monstrous camera and getting every single detail that you need to know perfect to get a nice picture.

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Well, here at the Hawaii State Archives, they are digitizing over 22,000 glass plate negatives that were taken with cameras like this and making them available for the public to use. 

To find out more about this project, we are here with the Hawaii State Archivist Dr. Adam Jansen. 

Tell us about this glass plate negative collection.

“Well, we are very fortunate to have a large number of these glass plate negatives that have been in the collection for over 100 years,” says Jansen.

Jansen adds “but because they are negatives and glass, they are very hard for the public to access.  So, we are very fortunate in that we have received a two-year grant from the Council on Library Information Resources to digitize all 22,000 of these glass plates and make them available to the public.”

What is the importance of taking these pictures and digitizing them compared to the pictures you already have available?

“We are going back to the source,” says Jansen.

“The original negatives and using the latest of technology to pull out every ounce of resolution and detail we can because when these plates were created, the printing process was not so good.” Jansen says “so, the quality of the photographs we have we’re used to today are beautiful, but they are missing details.  They are missing some of the small things, the shadows, the highlights, that we are not able to bring out and present to the public.”

So, we’re in 2022 when technology is very advanced. What importance and value does this play? What can we learn from revisiting old pictures in a new quality?

“For us, this is an opportunity to really advance scholarship in this time period,” says Jansen.

Jansen emphasizes “while we love the photos before, we can reacquaint with them, become re-familiar and learn new things from the details in the background, the foreground, looking at the style of dress, the construction of the dress, the jewelry, the kahili, to look at the weaves of the lei to see what can we learn from that and incorporate today.”

So, when will this become available to the public? 

And I am also aware that you also have an offering for those out in the public who have glass plate negatives.

“We are happy to announce that this project is exceeding every expectation that we had,” says Jansen.

“We already started releasing these images today on our website.  And because the project is going so well, we are putting out an offer that anybody else who has glass plate negatives that want to donate them to the archives, we will digitize them, give them the high-quality digital images that they can now appreciate themselves, and then preserve the originals in perpetuity.”

This is a really cool project because I already utilize a bunch of their photography and to have more high-def photography is really going to compliment my Aloha Authentic segments.

To be able to get your use of the Hawaii State Archives imagery, you can head to their digital archives. 

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