Photograph Collection

Main Library
Louis Stokes Wing
4th Floor
525 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114

Contact: Brian Meggitt

With more than 1.4 million photographs, the Photograph Collection is a tremendous resource for historians, film and video professionals, genealogists, sports enthusiasts, fashion designers and students of documentary history.

Materials in the Collection are primarily in black and white and cover the period of the 1850s to the present day. Drawn primarily from local newspaper morgues and photograph archives, this collection captures moments in the lives of people from Ohio, the U.S., and other nations.

We welcome professional and amateur researchers alike to visit and use the Photograph Collection. Students of Cleveland history in particular will find a rich store of over 400,000 images related to people, places and events in northeast Ohio, with photographs ranging from the mid-19th Century to today. Our knowledgeable staff can assist patrons with a variety of research, from locating images of family homes to in-depth topical searches.

Prominent Collections

Cleveland Picture Collection (also known as the Stanley McMichael Collection):

The Photograph Collection began with a collection of photographs from the 19th century and early 20th century purchased from Stanley McMichael in 1929. The collection was expanded to hold over 9,700 items with additional images from the 1930s to 1970s. The collection depicts major Cleveland sites and is divided into subject categories such as bridges, buildings, canals, churches, docks, etc.

Subject Cleveland Collection

Arranged by general subjects, the collection is comprised of over 23,000 items drawn from local newspaper donations (primarily the Plain Dealer, but also the Cleveland News, Cleveland Press, and the Call & Post), private donations, and purchases. The bulk of the photographs are from the 1910s to 1980s, but includes more recent images as well.

Cleveland City Hall Collection

Arranged by street address, this collection of over 54,000 items focus on Cleveland structures and daily life from the 1920s to 1990s; the collection is comprised of two donations by the City of Cleveland (Board of Zoning Appeals and Department of Community Development).

Walker & Weeks Collection

Arranged by structure, this collection of 1,300 architectural photographs depict local landmarks designed by this prominent firm. The collection includes images of Cleveland Public Library’s Main Building, Public Auditorium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Portrait & Biography Collection

The collection currently contains more than 400,000 biographical photographs arranged by the name of the individual depicted and ranging in variety from world figures to local celebrities. Theater performers and movie actors appear in great numbers as do statesmen and criminals. Holdings range from studio portraits of John D. Rockefeller and candid photographs of Eliot Ness to people from all walks of life.

General Subject Collection

The collection currently contains approximately 200,000 photographs depicting 20th century history and events, including both World Wars. Photographs of locations around the world include countries, cities, towns, rivers and historic landmarks. Subject headings range from Abbeys, Costumes, and Transportation to X-rays with a great variety in between.

Theater Collection

A collection of approximately 2,000 Cartes de Visite and Cabinet Cards. The dominant form of portraiture from the mid-1850s through the 1880s, the cards usually portrayed the sitter in a head and shoulders composition. The processes enabled photographers to mass produce portraits of theatrical celebrities.

Mears Collection

Historic photographs of baseball teams and players depict the Cleveland Base Ball Club of 1892 (Cleveland Spiders), the Chicago Base Ball Team of 1885, the Athletics in 1901, and the Cincinnati Red Stockings photographed by Mathew Brady in 1869. Local Photographers of Note: Included in the Collection are Otis Steel Mill photographs by Margaret Bourke-White. Also represented are professional portrait photographers George Mountain Edmondson and Ethel Standiford, photographers of prominent Clevelanders. Scenes of Cleveland are well-documented by: Jasper Wood, who photographed Cleveland’s Scovill area; George Ketteringham, ubiquitous early 20th century amateur photographer; Arthur Gray, who photographed the Flats, downtown and the Cleveland skyline in the 1930s; and Andrew Borowiec, whose 21st century photographs of the Flats were taken 2002-2003, are also represented.

Some of our collection has been digitized and is available to view online in our Digital Gallery.


Please contact the Photograph Collection for information.