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Overview of Photograph Collections

The Seattle Municipal Archives holds more than one million photograph objects in 130 processed collections and makes available more than 120,000 images electronically through the Photograph Index. This overview does not discuss all of the photograph collections held by the Municipal Archives. Also, not all of the collections described in this overview are available online; access to electronic records is available by clicking on the Record Series ID number where a link is provided. Where available, links are provided to finding aids and series identification records for more information about collections. If you have questions about other areas of interest please consult archives staff.

Nearly half of the images available online are historic, dating from the 1880's, and include, in large part, negatives created by the Seattle Engineering Department.

Beginning in 1990 through 2004, City Photographers captured more than 45,000 digital images which are entirely available in the Photograph Index. See the Image Bank entry for more information about this collection.

The most current, born digital, collections acquired by the Photo Archives come directly from City departments and agencies. Beginning in 2005 through present, these photograph collections depict the current business and infrastructure of the City of Seattle.

Images online appear in three sizes. You can right-click on images you find online and save them to your own storage device. You can also order a high resolution scan from the Archives for $8 per scan. Note that most photographs after 1998 were originally digital; for these images, the largest available size is on the website. Photographs are available free of charge; please cite the source as "Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives" and include the item number when using for publication or display.


Engineering Department

Engineering Department, 1910-1994. Record Series 2613-07

The largest collection of negatives in the Archives, created by Seattle Engineering Department photographers document public works and municipal facilities. The collection includes images of the Cedar River Watershed, Skagit River power development, bridge construction, sanitary landfills, Seattle's waterfront, and pipeline construction, among other topics. Engineering Department images through 1978 are online. Consult with the archives staff for information about and access to images after this date.

Department of Streets and Sewers, 1916-1936. Record Series 2625-10

Incorporated into the Engineering Department in 1936, images from the Department of Streets and Sewers number close to 3,000. The images document public works projects, including sewer construction, and document a large number of landslides within the City.

Engineering Department Slides, 1888-1990. Record Series 2613-08

Consisting of over 7,000 images, not currently available online, the slides document Engineering Department projects and miscellaneous slides produced from historical photographs, frequently from sources other than the Municipal Archives. This series documents construction of the West Seattle Freeway Bridge and damage and repair work on the Ravenna water pipeline break. Also included is a large body of images of the Tolt River Project construction. Historical slides include images of downtown streets, the waterfront, damage after the Great Fire of 1889, Pike Place Market, the old public library building, Seattle Hotel, and Cedar Falls Municipal Light Plant.

Engineering Department Aerial Photographs, 1954-1975. Record Series 2613-12

Aerial photography of the Seattle area, taken by commercial aerial surveyors. Includes images from 22 separate flights.

Engineering Department Creeks Photographs and Slides, 1987-1999. Record Series 2613-27

A large slide collection consisting of 10 binders representing North Seattle creeks such as Thornton, Venema, and Piper's creeks and South End and Central Seattle creeks such as Tayloe, Fauntleroy, and Lowman's creeks. This collection provides an in depth look at subjects concerning Seattle's numerous watersheds such as erosion, water quality, drainage, construction, the state of tributari es and detention ponds, dams, bridges, and culverts.


Department of Fleets & Facilities

Design, Print, and Copy Division: ImageBank Digital Photographs, 1998-2004. Record Series 0207-01

ImageBank was created and maintained by the Design, Print, & Copy division of the Fleets and Facilities Department from 1999-2004. Compiled by the City Photographers, ImageBank makes up a large portion of the Photo Archives digital collection with more than 45,000 images. Photograph content depicts dams and energy resources and other public utilities; creeks, watersheds, and environmental restoration; new building construction and renovation; transportation facitilies, construction, and maintenance; animals and wildlife; parks and public art; rural and urban areas; City programs and events; City employees at work in various fields; people and cultural activities, groundbreakings and community events; libraries and neighborhoods; and elected officials. Also contains scanned images pre 1999.

Capital Programs Division Digital Photographs, 2005. Record Series 0208-01

Subject matter includes Engine One Fireboat construction as well as fire station improvements, renovation, and construction. Also features photographs of fire station groundbreakings and community celebrations.


Department of Parks & Recreation

Don Sherwood Parks History Collection Photographs, 1896-1979. Record Series 5801-01

Contains nearly 2,500 Parks Department images documenting Seattle parks and associated recreational programs from 1896-1979. All images from this collection are available online.

Ben Evans Recreational Program Photographs, 1906-1995. Record Series 5801-02

Photos number over 300 and document recreational programs in Seattle parks.

Department of Parks and Recreation Slides, 1958-1991. Record Series 5802-09

3,500 images documenting facilities, projects, and recreational programs.

Burke-Gilman Trail Photographs, 1981-1989. Record Series 5802-13

Slides and negatives primarily documenting work on the Burke-Gilman Trail in the late 1980s. Also includes images of other park properties.

Superintendent & Administration Digital Photographs, 2004-2005. Record Series 5802-15

Content includes images of the P-Patch program and associated parks throughout the City.

Bumbershoot Festival Records, 1973-1976. Record Series 5807-05

Includes 250 color slides and 13 black and white photographic prints of Bumbershoot artists and activities.

Pro-Parks Development Digital Photographs, 2007. Record Series 5811-01

Contains digital photographs of Maple Leaf Garden Opening Celebrations, Laurelhurst Community Center Reopening, Ella Bailey Park Opening, Delridge Parks Project Celebration, John C. Little Park Opening.

Pro Parks Acquisitions Photographs, 1966-2006. Record Series 5811-02

A large collection containing prints, negatives, and slide representing 40 years of the development and improvement of nearly 100 of Seattle's city parks, community centers, and sports fields.


Water Department

Negatives, 1899-1946. Record Series 8200-13

More than 4,200 images documenting Water Department property and projects, including the Cedar River Watershed development, pipeline construction and repair, reservoir and water tank maintenance, and supplies and equipment.

Seattle Watershed and Pipeline Aerial Photographs, 1930-1989. Record Series 8204-03

Approximately 500 aerial photographs primarily of the Cedar River and Tolt Watersheds and pipeline, including routes through Seattle, Renton, and Tukwila. Index maps are included.


Seattle City Light

City Light Negatives, 1914-1995. Record Series 1204-01

Includes over 150,000 images dating from 1914 to 1995. The negatives document the development of Seattle's public electric utility. Includes photos of dam construction in the Cedar River Watershed and the Skagit, and the Boundary Project; transmission lines, substations; City Light facilities; and employees. The largest groups of images relate to Boundary Dam, Gorge High Dam, and Ross Dam. Other generating facilities depicted are Cedar Falls, Diablo Dam, Lake Union and Georgetown Steam plants, and the Newhalem hydroelectric plant.

City Light Photographic Prints. Record Series 1204-02

Includes over 12,000 images dating from 1914 to 1995. This series is comprised primarily of prints of City Light negatives (1204-01) and documents the development and growth of the City's public electric utility. Also included are unidentified images without corresponding negatives.

City Light Glass Lantern Slides. Record Series 1204-03

Includes 200 images dating from 1903 to 1945 relating to the development of public power in Seattle. Includes landscapes at Cedar Falls and the Skagit; promotional materials comparing City Light facilities to private companies; examples of electrical appliances and applications of electricity; and views of Diablo Dam, the Skagit River Railway, Cedar Falls Power Plant, and the Denny Hill Regrade.

City Light Slides, 1920-1975. Record Series 1204-04

Includes over 20,000 images documenting the development of City Light's public power facilities including dams, power houses, transmission lines, substations, and methods of wiring. Among the sites covered are Cedar Falls Power Plant, Newhalem, Diablo Dam, Ross Dam, and Boundary Dam. None of the images in this record group are currently online.

Newhalem and Diablo Dams Construction Photograph Albums, 1919-1936. Record Series 1204-10

Fourteen photograph albums illustrating the planning and construction of Newhalem and Diablo Dams including their respective power houses on the Skagit River in the North Cascades.

Gorge Dam Development Project Photograph Albums, 1948-1962. Record Series 1204-11

Photographs in the series document the Gorge Dam development on the Skagit River, including construction of the Gorge Diversion Dam, Gorge Tunnel and Intake, Gorge Surge Tank, Gorge Powerhouse, the Newhalem Creek Intake, Ladder Creek Settling Tank, and Gorge High Dam.

City Light: Communications and Public Affairs Division, Windstorm Damage Digital Photos, 2006. Record Series 1204-16

Also known as the Hannukkah Eve Windstorm, this weather event caused widespread power outages and significant damage throughout the City of Seattle and the surrounding areas. These images document Seattle City Light's response to the emergency and depict the extent of the damage to private and public property.

Field System Operations Digital Photographs, 2005-2007. Record Series 1204-18

Images of damage to transmission poles and transformers caused by auto accidents and weather-related incidents.

Communications and Public Affairs Digital Photographs, 2007. Record Series 1204-19

Contents include images of Seattle City Light personnel, elected and appointed officials, hydroelectric facilities, solar energy, and other energy resources, and public events.


Department of Community Development

Pike Place Market Visual Images, 1894-1987. Record Series 1628-02

Photographs and slides relating to urban renewal activities in the Market neighborhood. The collection includes over 2500 photographs and over 4500 slides. The slides document conditions of Market structures before, during, and after rehabilitation and construction; and Market activities and celebrations.


Aerial Photographs, 1951-1960. Record Series 1650-11

Aerial photographs commissioned by the Planning Commission.


Seattle Department of Transportation

Capital Projects and Roadway Structures Digital Photos, 2000-2004. Record Series 8101-10

Contents includes digital photographs of the construction of the West Galer Flyover Project.

Major Projects: South Lake Union Streetcar Opening Digital Photos, 2007. Record Series 8111-01

Images depict launching of the South Lake Union Streetcar with an event sponsored by SDOT and attended by Mayor Nickels.

Administration and Communication Division Digital Photographs, 2005-2007. Record Series 8100-01

Digital photographs of various neighborhoods and sites in Seattle.


Department of Neighborhoods

Section 106 Coordinator Digital Photographs, 2003-2005. Record Series 5754-10

Contents include photographs of historic landmark designation districts resulting from work with the NHPA.



Seattle Public Utilities

Communications Division Digital Photographs, 1999-2007. Record Series 7000-02

Photographs of Seattle Public Utilities programs, facilities, and equipment.


Science, Sustainability, and Watershed Division Digital Photographs, 1998-2008. Record Series 7009-01

Photographs documenting drainage and flood control facilities in Seattle including ditches and catchbasins.