16 February 2011

Archival Gold: National Park Service Digital Image Archive

Posted by Jessica Ball

Sorry for the sparse posting lately – mid-semester work is piling up, and I did a lot of hiking this weekend, so I was a bit worn out. One of the big topics being discussed lately is the annual tradition of the presidential/congressional budget throwdown. Federal budget cuts are always high on everyone’s list of contested topics, but one high point in the President’s proposed budget for 2012 is that the budget for the National Park Service would actually increase – by about $138 million! Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this particular budget proposal will make it through the bureaucratic wrangling – the House Appropriations Committee has already countered with a $51 million cut, and I suspect Park Service officials will have their hands full just trying to keep their original budget.

This is a shame, because the NPS is already facing an operations shortfall of $600 million. But the National Park Service Digital Image Archive is an excellent way to highlight exactly why we shouldn’t be looking only toward discretionary spending (i.e., at the Department of the Interior) as a way to save money on the budget. It’s only going to save a tiny fraction of what we could be cutting elsewhere, and it would be contributing to the neglect and loss of our national parks, which are an irreplaceable part of our geologic heritage.

The NPS photo collections can be searched by park and by special topics, and you usually get a nice summary about the park before you start digging through photos. (The images are very high resolution, so loading them takes a while – but it’s worth the wait!) The images do lack captions (and photographer info), but you can sometimes find them via the websites of the individual parks – look under their “Photos and Multimedia” menu.

Sunset at Arches National Park, Utah. National Park Service

Foliage and foliation along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia/North Carolina. National Park Service

Badlands of the Chinle Formation, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. National Park Service

Fumaroles (and some risk-taking tourists) at Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. National Park Service

Don’t forget, your input is important when it comes to the federal budget. If you’re interested in helping preserve the funding that keeps the National Park Service running, don’t forget to write to your congressional representative and let them know.