Project detail

Johnson Publishing Company; Johnson Publishing Company
Photographic Archive, ca. 1942-2008

Archival processing and folder-level inventory of 4,000+ linear feet of photographs created
by the staff of Johnson Publishing Company, the nation's largest African-American
owned publishing house.

The Collection

The Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) Archive comprises an estimated four million images (prints, negatives and slides) and ten thousand video assets, ca.1942 2008, created for publication in JPC's many magazines, including Negro Digest, Black Stars, Tan, Hue, Sepia, Ebony and Jet. Video materials primarily consist of raw footage created during interviews for JPC's television program, Ebony / Jet Showcase, 1982-1991. Divided into eleven series, which reflect both topical and material divisions, the Archive richly represents the breadth of African-American life and culture.
Illinois Institute of Technology Archives Pulitzer Prize winning image by long-time JPC staff photographer, Moneta Sleet, Jr. Coretta Scott King and daughter at funeral of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968
Illinois Institute of Technology Archives Temperature and humidity controlled storage vault installed at JPC's headquarters, 200 S. Michigan Ave. Vault uses high-density mobile open shelving units.

The Work

Armstrong-Johnston's processing team of 15 worked over the course of a year to arrange, archivally re-house, and describe JPC's massive holdings prior to the company's move to new headquarters. Though originally arranged by a corporate librarian, years of relative neglect, accruals of non-JPC owned photography by editorial staff, and lack of electronic inventory, had made the Archive difficult to manage and navigate.

In collaboration with JPC's Chairperson and CEO, Armstrong-Johnston created retention standards, which enabled smart "weeding" of non-JPC owned reference materials from the Archive. In the processing of rehousing the collection into archivally safe enclosures, Armstrong-Johnston improved and enhanced Series-level arrangement, and captured standard data sets describing the collection to the box and folder level. The inventory includes folder headings, publication dates, photographer attributions, and cross-references for 150,000+ folders/boxes of photographic materials.

The Result

The inventory has improved intellectual access to Johnson Publishing Company's archive, thus enabling the company to identify historic images for editorial use, digitization and licensing. In addition, archival rehousing and the construction of a temperature and humidity controlled storage facility have improved the outlook for long-term preservation.

Archival services:

Re-housing of photographic files; removal
of acidic papers and enclosures

Culling of non-JPC owned materials

Creation of hierarchical inventory

Consultation on construction of environmentally controlled storage facility

Facilitate move of archive to new headquarters

"I truly appreciate all your work in coordinating our archive. What an enormous undertaking--well done!"

Linda Johnson Rice

Chairman, Johnson Publishing Company