The Class Album Collection contains autograph, portrait and photograph albums of graduating classes from 1853 to 1909, and also includes several fraternity albums. For the Bicentennial project, we plan to digitize one album per year for the years which we hold. You can check out the collection’s finding aid online.
In the decades before it was easy to print photographs in books, class albums functioned as a photographic supplement to the college yearbook. While the early editions of the Olio include plenty of information about students and faculty, and even some illustrations, it simply wasn’t economically viable to print photographs of every student. Photographs start appearing in The Olio in the 1890s, and gradually increase as photo printing technology becomes more affordable.
The earliest class albums from the 1850s feature salt prints, but these were quickly superseded by albumen prints and later photo technologies. Most of the albums in the collection are commercially produced photo books filled with individually printed photographs of students, faculty, and campus scenes. Some students would get their classmates to sign their name under their photo, while others have no identifying information at all.
We also hold multiple class albums for the same year, but no two albums are exactly alike.
This collection is scheduled for digitization and description in Year Three (2020) of our Bicentennial project.
For more information
- You can check out the collection’s finding aid online.
- You can also view our technical documentation for this project.
- The Amherst College Olios are fully digitized, and can be viewed online.