Remembering the faces of the Civil War

10/14/2022 cbw

By Megan Klintworth

As the internet continues to expand and technology becomes more advanced, nearly every industry has been transformed, including the library and museum fields. One way that libraries and museums have embraced technology is by making digital collections that highlight specific parts of their full collection. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum received just such an opportunity in 2006 thanks to a grant from the Illinois State Library through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This laid the groundwork for our Boys in Blue digital collection.

This first phase of the Boys in Blue project allowed staff to over 9200 photographs of Illinois Civil War soldiers in the collection. These images capture the soldiers using the latest trends in photography of the day through cabinet cards, tintypes, and cartes de visite.

A.J. Babcock of the 7th Illinois Infantry RegimentA.J. Babcock of the 7th Illinois Infantry Regiment

During the project each of these soldiers was identified. Information about their regiments, enlistment, the photography studio, and the location of the studio were also recorded if available. All of this information was compiled into the Civil War Photograph Database and made freely accessible on the ALPLM’s Digital Resources page.

The second phase of the Boys in Blue project was to digitize the photographs according to archival digital preservation standards.

The front and back of each photograph were scanned and any writing on the back was transcribed. Just over 920 were cataloged and published onto the CARLI Digital Collection digital repository platform.

Currently photographs of soldiers from the 4th, 10th, and 11th Illinois Cavalry and the 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 26th, 33rd, 37th, 53rd, 56th, 64th, 77th, 86th, 101st, 108th, 114th, 117th, 120th, 122nd, and 130th Illinois Infantry Regiments are available. As they are completed, additional images from other units will be added.

All the images on the Boys in Blue database are freely downloadable by selecting the grey download square button to the right of the image.

The arrow shows the download button from Babcock’s page.The arrow shows the download button from Babcock’s page.

The Boys in Blue Digital Collection continues to be one of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum’s most utilized online resources. It is freely accessible to everyone to explore and on rare occasions it has even connected people with their ancestors.

Megan Klintworth is the ALPLM iconographer.

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