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Taking A Larger View


The first panoramic images were produced shortly after the invention of photography as photographers sought to document their growing cities and communities. To achieve this, they would take a series of photographs of a scene – most commonly a city or landscape – and combine them side by side. By the late 19th century, cameras were produced specifically for this purpose.

We are scanning more than 500 panoramic photographs from our existing collection to make them available online for the first time as part of the Digital Images Collections. 

The Panoramic Photograph Collection includes pictures taken by a number of Indiana and national photographers and studios, including W.H. Bass, Charles F. Bretzman and Martin’s Photo Shop. Many are taken with Cirkut cameras, which could produce a 360-degree image. The photographs can be between 5 to 20 feet long, necessitating special skill from our Conservation and Preservation Imaging Services staff. 

Though photographers from other states are included, as well as images from as late as the 1990s, the collection primarily tells the story of Indiana in the first half of the 20th century. Indianapolis is most represented, but from Fort Wayne to Evansville, you can find reunions and church congregations, as well as national conventions, political events and scenes from both World Wars. Bird’s-eye panoramas documented the growth of Indiana’s cities. Sometimes these aerial views captured important natural events, such as the devastating floods of the early 20th century. 

From mundane company picnics to important events such as the notification ceremony for Charles Fairbanks for the office of vice president of the United States, each photograph pieces together a picture of Indiana history – a very large picture.