USGS photographic archive

The US Geological Survey has placed 16 thousand of its archived field photographs on the web, at print-quality resolution.  They can be accessed at http://libraryphotos.er.usgs.gov and carry no copyright, so anyone can use them for illustration of lectures or textbooks (it would be polite to acknowledge the USGSs generosity).  The photos date back to the earliest days of geological research in the United States, and are in black and white, and colour.  Although still under development, the site’s search engine works well and quickly.  Putting in “unconformity” and “thrust” yielded 31 and 52 pictures, respectively.  However, trying to find the highly photogenic thrust of grey Cambrian limestones over Permian redbeds west of Las Vegas in Nevada drew a surprising blank.  Every geological survey holds enormous archives of photographs that never see the light, so the USGS initiative ought to encourage others to follow suit.  In particular, it would be great news if the British Geological Survey, the world’s oldest, did likewise, instead of just generating a meagre flow of funds by selling a minute proportion of its collection as postcards.

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