Preserving the Past

Gilmour, Gerry. "Preserving the Past." Forum, 4 January 1998, sec. E1 & E2.

Images of immigrants. Images of sod homes and bonanza farms. Images of rural and small-town life at the turn of the century on the Northern Great Plains of America.

Images soon available on the internet.

Two historic North Dakota photographic collections will be available around the world next year when North Dakota State University's Institute of Regional Studies becomes a long electronic arm of the Library of Congress.

"This is going to get North Dakota in a very public place on the Internet," says Institute of Regional Studies archivist John Bye.

The collections of pioneer photographers Fred Hulstrand and F.A. Pazandak in March will be available on American Memory, the Library of Congress's online collection of primary source materials in U.S. history and culture.

The NDSU collections will be the first non-Library of Congress collection available at the American Memory site.

The Institute of Regional Studies' staff submitted a grant proposal in the fall of 1996 and in April learned they would receive $15,600 to offset the cost of creating a computer home page for the collections.

They used the grant to hire a full-time technician to digitally scan and document the photographs. That process will be completed by the end of January, Bye says.

The institute finds itself in impressive company as one of 10 institutions selected to compile collections for the site, joining: Brown University, the Denver Public Library, Duke University, Harvard University, the New York Public Library, Ohio Historical Society, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Texas-Austin.

The American Memory Web site will provide a link to NDSU's Institute of Regional Studies site - providing Internet surfers fast access to other collections based at the institute.

"It's going to just explode the usage," Bye said. "We don't know what's going to happen when we get on the Web."

The institute was founded in 1950 by faculty members interested in preserving and publishing from historic North Dakota material.

Bye was hired as its archivist in 1975.

The institute is housed in the lower level of the NDSU main library.

It is one of three major depositories for North Dakota historical materials in the state, the others being the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and the State Historical Society in Bismarck.

NDSU's institute has 3,000 collections. "The Web is finally a new way for our archives to get out to the public," Bye says.

The Librart of Congress was seeking materials, dating from 1850 to 1920, which were copyrighted.

"We had only two collections that really fit," Bye says.

American Memory is primarily designed for school children, but its audience is much larger.

"Ours is going to appeal to children, because they'll be seeing images of things they know nothing about," Bye says.

He says the Library of Congress has very little on rural life and agriculture in the Midwest.

Bye says the North Dakota photographs will be helpful to historians studying agriculture and pioneer life on the Great Plains.

"They're not just pretty pictures," he says. "They tell a story."

The Hulstrand collection is the most heavily used at the institute, Bye says.

There are more than 800 photographs in the Hulstrand collection. Many prints were taken by other photographers and were part of collections Hulstrand acquired.

A number of prints are hand colored.

Hulstrand was born in a sod house hear Fairdale, N.D., in 1888 to Swedish immigrants. He attended rural schools and as a youngster witnessed a neighbor processing a roll of film and learned to process his own film in the cellar of his parents' sod house.

He apprenticed as a photographer in Milton, N.D., and went on to study photography at the Chicago Art Institute.

He opened his own studio in Park River, N.D., in 1916 and worked there until his death in 1968.

One of his hand-colored photographs in 1962 was used on a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Homestead Act.

Sod homes, log houses and tar paper shacks, small-town businesses, and horses and threshing machines were among his favorite subjects.

Hulstrand knew these things were disappearing and wanted to preserve history, Bye says.

A portion of the Hulstrand collection traveled the state in 1976 for America's Bicentennial.

There are 120 photographs in the Pazandak collection.

Pazandak's parents and their six children moved to North Dakota from Iowa in 1901. F.A. Pazandak two years later, at the age of 16, got a folding 3A Eastman camera and began taking pictures.

Professionally, he became a farmer and worked three sections near Fullerton, N.D. His was one of the first fully mechanized farms in the state of North Dakota and many of his photos reflect his pride in that fact.

"He had an eye for what would make a good historical photograph," Bye says. "His work shows farming's transformation from horses to mechanization in North Dakota and, by extention, the United States."

American Memory is found at

Reprinted with permission of The Forum.

The Fred Hulstrand History in Pictures Collection includes hand-painted photographs taken by several pioneer photographers. This one, by Job Harrison, shows a farm family of eight, five of whom are shoeless, their dog and another man standing outside a sod hut, circa 1905, near Rock Lake, N.D. The A.O. Olson children and their dog and buggy contraption, circa 1907, on a shady sidewalk in Milton, N.D.
Oxen rest for a moment while a farm family takes a coffee break on a grain drill, circa 1900, in North Dakota. This photo comes from a collection of the late Olga Peipkorn of Fargo. An Icelandic immigrant demonstrates how to spin wool on a spinning wheel, circa 1900, in an Icelandic settlement area near Oriska, N.D.
Fred Hulstrand's 1913 photo of George Green's highly organized hardware store and harness shop in Milton, N.D. Jack Anderson's Minneapolis steamer breaking virgin soil with a John Deere plow, circa 1910, near fullerton, N.D.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller