See rare images depicting life, work at the White House
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Only a sliver of what goes on at the White House is ever seen by the public. And what is seen, is usually seen through a very manicured lens.
The White House Historical Association aims to preserve and provide access to White House history. A team of its librarians has spent the past two years working to digitize about 25,000 behind-the-scenes photographs. These offer a revealing glimpse of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The images were previously uncatalogued. They capture scenes from 1962 to 1987. This spans the Kennedy to the Reagan administrations. That's according to Betsy Klein of CNN.
The only information available for most slides in storage was the month and year the film was developed, so librarians had to work like detectives. They paid close attention to details of the photo slides to identify how the images fit into the timeline of historical events and other records.
For example, librarians were able to identify civil rights leaders in a photo from a 1966 meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. They did so by using Johnson's daily diary.
A team of historians fact-checked the photo information. They made revisions when necessary before the images were digitized online. Klein reports the ongoing project is part of a partnership with Amazon Web Services. It provides cloud storage and support.
Other images on the organization's new online library include scenes of press reporters during the Johnson administration. Men in workspaces on telephones and reporters relaxing on leather chairs can be seen in the photo.
The Gemini 4 NASA team also makes an appearance. Not only do the images show the astronauts being presented with the Exceptional Service Medal, but they also capture the astronauts at a more candid moment. It shows them as they play in the White House pool with their families at the invitation of Johnson.
Founded in 1961 as an effort by Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Historical Association works to preserve and provide access to White House history. The organization also collects information on first ladies and other important figures in the White House. It collects information on art and decorations from the space and architectural changes throughout the White House’s history. Additionally, it's charged with commissioning an annual White House christmas ornament honoring past presidents. This past year, it honored former President Harry Truman.
Klein writes the team is only halfway done with its digitization project, and many more images are set to make their way from storage to digital library in the coming months. For now, you can check out the trove of images currently available on the site.