History in the Making: Creating the Lansing Art Gallery’s Digital Archive

As an intern at Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center I’ve been immersed in efforts toward a digital archive to preserve and share the Gallery’s history through online global access. The charge: to sort, select, and digitize historical photographs. These preserved images will be accessible for anyone who wishes on our website.

The digital archive will include decades of photographic history and insight, with some photographs dated as far back as the 1970s. After some time getting acquainted with the various pictures, I realized that this isn’t just a simple tour through the Gallery’s history, but an opportunity to support the visual narrative of our organization’s history. I’m proud to curate the images that tell our history by selecting the most representative pictures of the organization for digitization. It is, in a sense, an exhibition of the various portraits of the Gallery painted with time.

Knowing this I began to see the true value of this project; the photographs I found depicted not just an art gallery, but a community. They show spaces that have been filled with life and love and joy for decades. I saw former directors, donors, and artists enjoying both the art and the company. At times, it felt as if I was a part of these old exhibitions myself. I could practically hear the hum of these people in those halls. I even got to know a few regular faces who kept showing up in plenty of the photographs over the years.

Even though I may not have known all the names of these people I saw, there is no doubt I know the feelings their faces displayed. These pictures hold the smiles and laughs of countless parents, children, patrons, and artists proud of what they had produced. They all exhibit that profound spark of passion that I’ve seen in the eyes of every artist I’ve ever met. It is that passion that continuously drives us all to the arts because it is the knowledge that art is human, and that humanity is beautiful.

This gallery hasn’t simply sold art all these years; it has touched countless lives and helped contribute to Lansing’s ever-expanding artistic culture. From exhibitions to scholarship competitions, from youth classes to adult sessions, the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center has been a home in which people have been able to find creativity, freedom, and family among the arts. This is what the archive communicates and what the Gallery plans to continue for years to come.

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