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One of Historic New England’s most significant photographic collections, that of Nathaniel L. Stebbins, is now available online. Stebbins, a widely celebrated marine photographer, captured the essential New England pastimes of yachting and racing, as well as an extraordinary variety of marine vessels from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Recognizing its importance in capturing the region’s maritime history, Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton acquired the Stebbins collection, consisting of glass-plate negatives and photographs along with other documentation, in 1929. Featuring almost 6,000 maritime and architectural images, the collection has long been a popular resource for visitors to Historic New England’s Library and Archives in Boston. Appleton’s efforts were integral in preserving Stebbins’ work, as many of the photographer’s negatives were sold for glass soon after his death.
The digitization of the Stebbins collection is an important step in the ongoing Collections Access Project, which launched in 2010. The Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts, and the Boston Public Library in conjunction with the Digital Commonwealth participated in the Stebbins digitization effort.