Claflin University will digitize the history of photography

A grant from Getty Images will allow the university to create a historical archive.

ORANGEBURG, SC — Claflin University in Orangeburg is one of four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to receive a $500,000 grant from Getty Images to help preserve HBCUs’ visual history.

This grant will allow the university to create a digital archive of thousands of photographs from the history of the university.

“During my life, I have mainly used film. So all of the records here, for the most part, are on film,” said Cecil Williams, director of historic preservation at Claflin University.

With the help of university staff and interns, Williams will digitize the photos.

“Among the films that we have digitized that would be available to Getty is this photo of Claflin University students marching for freedom, justice and equality,” Williams said.

Other photos will include Thurgood Marshall visiting Claflin University and Briggs v. Elliot, a court case that challenged school segregation in Summerville.

Williams says he will scan the photos using a device he invented in 2015 called a “film toaster” that will allow him to scan a single photo in 1/50 of a second.

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“A film toaster contains all of the elements necessary to accurately and very consistently take a close-up image of each particular negative,” he said.

Claflin Jr. Arteria Gibson says this grant will help keep the university’s history alive.

“I think it’s a great way for my generation to see history come together, especially how prevalent social media is in our lives,” Gibson said. “I think it’s the perfect way for students to reconnect with our history.”

“It means Claflin will be on a larger level,” said Claflin senior Eric McClam. “It also means he will attract more students and be more knowledgeable about Claflin’s history.”

Other universities that received the grant are Jackson State University, North Carolina Central University and Prairie View A&M University.

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“These images provide compelling visual accounts of how Claflin’s dedicated and visionary administrators, distinguished faculty and staff, and high-calibre scholars have made indelible contributions to Orangeburg, the State of South Carolina, and the world,” said Claflin University President Dwuan J. Warmack.

The photos will be viewable in the “Collection of Historically Black Colleges and Universities” on the Getty images website.

Michael E. Marquez