Prominent Collector Endorses MIL Bid for Unique Photo Collection

Digitial library pioneer and map collector David Rumsey has endorsed the Map & Imagery Laboratory's (MIL) bid to acquire the Fairchild Aerial Surveys collection from Whittier College. Whittier closed the collection to public access in early 2010.  Fairchild Aerial Surveys was a predecessor corporation to Teledyne Geotronics, which donated a significant portion of MIL's prominent aerial photography collection in 1986.

Rumsey is also an advocate for the long-term preservation of digital materials and open access to archival materials.  His collection is available to the general public at and he has commited to donating his physical and digital collection to the library at Stanford University.  MIL provides free access to all of its digital remote sensing imagery for UC students and researchers.  The general public pays a nominal fee that subsidizes this free research.  Mr. Rumsey's letter is reproduced here with his permission:

August 12, 2012

James Dunkelman
Whittier College
Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration
Fairchild Collection Bid
13406 E. Philadelphia Street
Whittier, CA 90608

Re: Fairchild Collection

Dear Jim,

We spoke some months ago about my possible interest in acquiring the Fairchild Collection. Since then, I decided to give my enthusiastic support to the acquisition of the collection by UC Santa Barbara and I know you have received a proposal from them, along with other proposals. I hope that you will be able to give strong value to proposals for keeping the collection in an educational institution like UCSB, as it has been at Whittier all these years, so that access will remain open to students, researchers, and non-profits in the best possible way. Even if UCSB is not the highest bidder in dollar value, I urge you to give extra weight to their unique status as a provider of Fairchild imagery to the public in a public spirited way. I worry that if private interests get the collection because they have offered a higher bid price, access will be shut off to all but those who can pay whatever the new owner decides is appropriate. I know you have a fiduciary responsibility to Whittier to get the best value in disposing of the collection, but certainly considerations of your core educational mission must play a factor too – and UCSB will offer far more value in that area than bids from private parties who have no commitment to education. Thanks for your consideration and I hope the process works out best for all concerned – Whittier, UCSB, and the public.

Best, David
David Rumsey Map Collection

Shown below is an image from one of MIL's existing Fairchild flights showing the Santa Monica Pier in 1927.  The pier's original roller coast, the Whirlwind, is clearly visible in this limited sample.  A full-resolution detail follows.

The portion of the Fairchild archive that remains at Whittier consists of hundreds of additional flights that offer a rich portrait of Southern California from the Great Depression, through World War II, to the post-War population explosion.  The collection would bring the vast majority of Fairchild's vertical imagery of California  to UCSB.  UCLA continues to hold the oblique portion of the collection in its Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives