As we kick off the Kentucky Photo Archive blog I want to give you some background about the collection of images that you’ll be seeing here in the coming weeks and months.
Officially known as the John C. Wyatt Herald-Leader Collection, this archive of 1.8 million negatives and transparencies dating from the late 1930s through the 1990s has been housed and cared for by the University of Kentucky Special Collections since 2005.
In this first post I want to pay tribute to the man responsible for preserving this collection and saving it from the landfill. John C. Wyatt was a long-time chief photographer at the Herald-Leader who worked from 1946 until he retired in 1990. A photo of John covering a parade in the 1960s is one of the first to grace this page.
In 1973 when the Knight Newspapers purchased the family-owned Herald and Leader, the new company sent corporate emissaries to our little paper and among other helpful suggestions, told our librarians to stop recording and filing the photographers’ negatives. Not important, they told them. The librarians were then told to throw all the old negatives in the trash.
John wasted no time moving the negatives back to the photo department. He would not allow them to be carted off to the dump.
So John took it upon himself to begin logging by hand every photo assignment, and housing and labeling every negative that the Herald and Leader staffs produced. By the early 1980s he was aided in this task by a new gadget that was gaining in popularity, the personal computer. John was the first person at the Herald-Leader to bring a computer into the building and use it to create a database of photo assignments.
So without John’s intervention there would not be a collection of historical negatives and few images to base this blog on.