Historic newspaper collection finds a home at University of Louisville
“The Barry Bingham Jr. Courier Journal Photographic Collection” includes photographs from Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, NPPA News Photographers of the Year, and multiple KNPA Photographers of the Year.
By Pat McDonogh
The Courier-Journal has a long history of great photography. With any great historic or artistic collection, it must be cared for and protected. I’ve had many sleepless nights over the years worrying about the fate of the Courier-Journal film archives.
In 2002 I wrote a letter to the newspaper’s publisher with several suggestions to improve the paper. The last item said, ”we need to start thinking about the future of our film archives. It’s not being properly cared for, and we should donate them to a historical organization that will care for them and make them available for scholarly study.
Since then, eight publishers and executive editors got the same sales pitch from me, except one, who walked into the newspaper’s library, where thousands of photographic prints were housed and told the staff, “we need this space and besides, you can find all this on the internet.” I didn’t waste my breath on her. Fortunately, she didn’t last long in her job.
The elephant in the room was a sprinkler system that had been installed throughout the building. Sprinkler systems are a great safety feature, but they could bring about the instant ruination of a film collection. When the system was being installed a worker failed to cap the end of a pipe in one of the rooms that housed the archive and when water was added, Kentucky Derby film was destroyed.