Last updated: July 6, 2016
In the days before the National Park Service existed as an agency, Stephen Mather and Horace Albright gathered images of lands they felt should be protected for the American people. They "recognized magnificent scenery as the primary criterion for establishment of national parks." To do this, these men used glass slides and a lantern projector to share these images with those who would support their conservation efforts.
Albright's lantern slide projector in the NPS collection
As we know now, the National Park Service was established thanks to these efforts. Through its early years, the agency matured and so too did the use of technology. Rangers began using cameras in the field to capture images of park life and events. In some cases, the use of these images documented the importance of new lands to be protected, an idea our founding fathers had no idea would take hold so well.
Historic image of George Wright standing in a snowdrift at Yosemite in 1929
As time has passed, video recordings have been added to the creative capturing of life in our parks. Now we can not only share our park pictures, but our live-action park experiences as well. For the parks, this has meant a new way of sharing the stories of our parks and those people that have had a connection to them. As the years have passed, these images were often reused in park exhibits and films as an introduction at the visitor centers.
Historic image: E.B. Thompson filming on a canal boat in 1920 on theChesapeake & Ohio Canal
Today the use of mobile devices give the opportunity to all of us to take a photo or a video. It is not just the domain of professionals, but all who visit our parks. We can upload media in a matter of moments and share it with everyone in our social network or even link back to the physical place it was taken. All of these ways of capturing and sharing images allows us to feel connected to not only our loved ones, but to the places they have been as well.
Mobile device showing an image from Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve's Facebook page
It's difficult to say how how far the parks would have come without those first images collected by pioneers Mather and Albright. It is with the use of these artifacts that Congress was persuaded for the need for the National Park Service. It is interesting to know that not only are these first glass slide images still a part of the NPS History Archives, but those that were later specially commissioned for NPS use are housed in the NPS Commissioned Art Collection, but that is a story for another time...