Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Sneden?
As part of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration the VHS is digitizing the diaries and scrapbook of Pvt. Robert Knox Sneden in their entirety. This is really exciting for us because this collection has been at the top of our digitization to-do list for . . . well . . . ever. As long as we’ve been making collections digitally available, we have wanted to show off this superstar. Bits and pieces have been digitized for various publications or projects, but there has never been one place to see it all. But there will be!
Over the last several months I’ve been photographing Sneden’s drawings, one-by-one. I started with 130 of Sneden’s best watercolors of the Peninsula Campaign. These will be featured in an A/V element of the sesquicentennial exhibition, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia. I’m now capturing the remaining thousands of images—a task that will surely keep me busy for the rest of the year. In the meantime, we are designing an illustrated finding aid that will allow us to display all of the images and make browsing the collection a breeze.
As the digital collections manager at the VHS, hardly a day goes by when I don’t create a high-resolution digital file of some treasure in our collection. One of my favorite things to do is to zoom in on the image and scroll through the tiny details that make up the whole. Not only does this offer me an opportunity to scrutinize my copy photography, but it also reveals a new way of looking at the image. Secondary stories unfold from the details. I love to do this with early twentieth-century photographs especially. Sneden’s drawings are so chock full of action that the same sort of substories are revealed when you look at the details. I’ve included some of my favorites in the slideshow below.
If you’ve been following this blog for the past few weeks, you may have noticed that this is the fourth post that has been dedicated to the work of Robert K. Sneden. Has our enthusiasm about this collection brushed off onto you?
Meg Eastman is digital collections manager at the Virginia Historical Society.