The MAC's digital photo collections are now available

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For this year's Fall Arts preview issue, we focused on the awesome, big ideas happening in the region's blossoming arts community. One of those big ideas is the massive undertaking at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture to digitize and make available online thousands and thousands of historic photos that, until very recently, were only available to view in physical form.

Find out more about the ongoing digitization project in our Fall Arts feature on historian Jeff Creighton, who's been leading the efforts to do so for nearly two years.

The museum's largest photo collection in the Joel E. Ferris Research Archive is the career work of Charles Libby, which spans decades of Spokane's history, from the 1900s to the '70s. The Inlander featured an in-depth cover story on Libby's important contributions to Spokane's historic identity two years ago. 

Anyhow, let's get to the point — many of the photos Creighton and his team have been meticulously sorting and uploading to a server are now available and accessible to the public for viewing, at this link.

More photos and collections are still being added to the online database, a work in progress. All photos currently online are also available for purchase in digital and print form. 

Currently the database is set up so that you need to know a search term (there's no "view all" option, to our current knowledge) to be able to view thumbnail images from each collection listed in a drop-down menu. If, like us, you don't know what you're looking for and just want to browse, try typing in specific neighborhoods, street names, building names or simply the word Spokane.

Here's a sampling of interesting photos we found while browsing the online archives this afternoon. (Note that all photos are watermarked because you're supposed to purchase them if you want the originals. These re-posts are for illustrative purposes.)

The still recognizable, north-facing facade of the Washington Cracker Co. building, at 304 W. Pacific. Photo from the Charles Libby Collection, dated 1921. - MAC
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  • The still recognizable, north-facing facade of the Washington Cracker Co. building, at 304 W. Pacific. Photo from the Charles Libby Collection, dated 1921.

Another Libby Collection photo, of the "Spokane Old People's Home," a magnificent haunted house-looking mansion. Dated 1921. - MAC
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  • Another Libby Collection photo, of the "Spokane Old People's Home," a magnificent haunted house-looking mansion. Dated 1921.

The busy marquee of Spokane's Liberty Theater (it no longer stands at 718 W. Riverside), in a uncredited photo dated from 1925. - MAC
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  • The busy marquee of Spokane's Liberty Theater (it no longer stands at 718 W. Riverside), in a uncredited photo dated from 1925.

A bird's eye view of Spokane, looking northeast from Cliff Avenue, in 1911. From the Frank Palmer Collection. The two buildings in the foreground are still standing, on the corner of Stevens and Seventh Avenue, near the existing Edwidge Woldson Park. - MAC
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  • A bird's eye view of Spokane, looking northeast from Cliff Avenue, in 1911. From the Frank Palmer Collection. The two buildings in the foreground are still standing, on the corner of Stevens and Seventh Avenue, near the existing Edwidge Woldson Park.

Another lovely view of our fair city, looking east from where the Centennial Trail now extends along the Spokane River, through Kendall Yards. That's Peaceful Valley to the right. Photo taken in 1912, from the Frank Palmer collection. - MAC
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  • Another lovely view of our fair city, looking east from where the Centennial Trail now extends along the Spokane River, through Kendall Yards. That's Peaceful Valley to the right. Photo taken in 1912, from the Frank Palmer collection.

A stunning view of Spokane's famous Clocktower, the only remnant of the Great Northern Railroad Depot that's survived for more than a century. Taken in 1910 by Frank Palmer. - MAC
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  • A stunning view of Spokane's famous Clocktower, the only remnant of the Great Northern Railroad Depot that's survived for more than a century. Taken in 1910 by Frank Palmer.