Find Your Own "Images of the Past"
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Deadwood. Grand Lodge I.O.O.F. of Dakotas. Street Parade, May 21, 1890. John C. H. Grabill Collection, Library of Congress.
If you enjoy looking online for old pictures, newspapers, and other historical documents, welcome to the beginning of the Golden Age. There are billions of images and documents out there and a simple Google search can keep you busy for hours, if you let it. But Google search results that lead to Pinterest posts are just a thin, if useful, layer between you and the source of what you're interested in. A search engine will also bring you a lot of stuff you aren't interested in. At all.
Here are a few online resources, including social media communities that may be of interest to you if you haven't discovered them already.
The South Dakota State Archives, South Dakota Digital Archives. The State Archives is the repository for all kinds of South Dakota-specific manuscripts, legal records, various documents, images and even films and video. The Digital Archive is just a slice of what's available but it's a big and satisfying slice. Many, if not most of the digitized images you'll find were donated and what they show is oftern super-local. If, for example, you're looking for pictures of your hometown at the turn of the century, there's a chance (at least) that there's a shot in the State Archives. A significant amount of content has been digitized and made available online but again, it's still only a slice of what's available at the South Dakota State Archives in Pierre.
Library of Congress, Digital Collections. Many of the photos in the LOC are in the public domain but, as is true with most sites featuring images, figuring out who holds the copyright on a particular image or other bit of media is up to you. (This isn't the place get into the ins and outs of the Fair Use Doctrine, but if you are planning to redistribute anything, especially for commecial purposes, you'll sleep better at night if you get permission from the copyright holder.) Anyway, you may find yourself mildly irked on the LOC site from time to time. Not everything you find is available online. On the upside, if you do find an image thumbnail or a description of an item that you really want, the LOC has a process for requesting the item, which, of course, involves a fee.
The National Archives and Records Administration, Online Exhibits. This page is a reasonably wide gateway to the incredibly deep ocean that is the National Archives. NARA is the official keeper of everything from your grandpa's draft card to digitized versions of the Magna Carta, but once you learn how to use the site's search tools, you'll find more than a few things that you won't find elsewhere. NARA has also created a few topic-specific sites that make it very easy access content. Have a look their World War One Centennial collection.
Chronicling America, Library of Congress. The Chronicling America project is an archive of digitized newspapers from all over the United States. The South Dakota State Historical Society has digitized and contributed no fewer than 37 digitized titles, including some newspapers printed for sale to the state's various immigrant communities in the early 20th century.
Newspapers.com. This is a commercial site and complete access is only available after paying a subscription fee. That said, a free trial offers the chance to view old and sometimes very old newspapers from all over the U.S. An easy-to-use search tool helps users limit their results state-by-state and within a particular date range. Looking through historical newspapers can useful - and a lot of fun - but keep in mind that your local library is likely to have what your looking for.
Greetings From Sioux Falls. I'm from Sioux Falls so I admit to having a special interest in the images featured on this site. More towns should have Web sites like this. By the way, Greetings from Sioux Falls also has a strong social media following via Facebook.
--Brian Gevik, SDPB Producer
The world of social media has unlocked several new resources for amateur and professional historians alike. Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow users to connect personally on specific topics.
The world’s largest social media site, Facebook, has some of the largest online communities of South Dakota history buffs. Facebook groups, in particular, have become a popular way for former and current South Dakota residents to source photos, histories and other information. Groups, which range from wide-ranging topics like “Small Town Histories of South Dakota” to hyper-focused topics like “South Dakota Norwegian Genealogy” allow members to share both photos and documents and have in-depth conversations about individual topics. They also feature a valuable search function which allows group members to search for specific terms, places and people within both group posts and conversations.
One of the largest South Dakota History Facebook groups available was founded in 2015 by amateur historian David Fransen and has since exploded to more than 15,000 members (as of November 2018). The group, named “South Dakota History of Cities, Towns, Places and People Who Made It Great” boasts members from throughout the world and contains a continually growing library of member-generated photos, place histories and personal stories from across the state.
Similar groups, covering all manner of South Dakota history and stories, have sprung up as well, including Remembering South Dakota and South Dakota Past and Present. Those interested in images and stories of places in South Dakota that have or nearly have disappeared will be interested in Abandoned South Dakota History and Images and well as SDPB’s operated group, Vanished South Dakota, which is an information gathering point for our upcoming documentary of the same name.
Several groups featuring histories of specific places have developed as well. Former and current Sioux Falls residents will find nearly 12,000 others with similar interests at “You Know You’re From Sioux Falls/Brandon if…” and those from the other side of the state will find a similarly sized group for Rapid City at “You Know You’re From Rapid City, SD When…”. Towns like Yankton, Aberdeen and Pierre are not to be left out either.
For those who wish to drill down into specific historical topics will find their compatriots online as well. Those who enjoy reading South Dakota historical markers can find friends here and those of a Germans from Russia heritage will find recipes, stories and more here. Several county and city historical groups have started their own Facebook groups as well, like this one for Hyde County. Whatever your interest area, it is likely you can find similarly minded people online and connect with them. And if you cannot, there is always the option to found your own!
--Heather Benson, SDPB Social Media Coordinator