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Photo Resources

Photo Resources


The South Dakota Digital Archives was launched in January 2012 by the South Dakota State Archives to provide digital access to unique historical photographs and records.


Visual images form an essential part of the documentation preserved in the South Dakota State Archives. Researchers use photos to supplement written records when working on family histories, articles, books, and video documentaries.

Because the development of inexpensive and easily-available photographic processes coincided with the period of settlement and establishment of South Dakota as a state, the visual resources for studying South Dakota are particularly rich. The State Archives houses over 100,000 images dating from the territorial period to the present, covering topics such as homesteading and immigration, American Indians, town sites, scenery, and family life.

Photographs have been collected by the South Dakota State Historical Society since its founding in 1891. The State Archives program maintains collections received by the Society from private donors, and also acquires visual materials created by state and local government agencies. The State Archives accepts hundreds of historical photographs each year from individuals and organizations who wish to have them preserved and made available to the public, and benefits from tax-deductible cash contributions which provide funds to maintain and preserve the collection.

Photographers have used many different processes to create pictures, and each format requires unique treatments to preserve the images. The State Archives has examples of glass plates, tintypes, daguerrotypes, and cyanotypes from a hundred years ago, and now receives videotapes and digital images which need to be preserved for the future.

Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, US Code) governs the making of photocopies of other reproductions of copyright material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproductions. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that use may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of the copyright law. The granting of permission to publish by the SDSHS does not absolve users of materials from securing permission from copyright owners and payment of such additional fees as the owners may require if the SDSHS does not own copyright or if the material is not in the public domain. Applicants assume all responsibility for questions of copyright and invasion of privacy that may arise in copying and in the use made of the photographic copy.

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