Library Acquires 750,000 Aerial Photos from Whittier College

The UC Santa Barbara Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of a significant collection of aerial photographs from Whittier College. These 750,000 photographs taken between 1927 and 1965 originate from Fairchild Aerial Surveys. They offer a rich portrait of Southern California from the Great Depression through World War II to the post-War population explosion, and include photographs from around the world.

Sherman M. Fairchild is famous for having developed a camera during WWI with the shutter located inside the lens, significantly reducing distortion problems. His design became the standard for aerial camera systems used for both military and commercial purposes over the next fifty years. Fairchild created the first aerial survey of Manhattan Island by piecing together 100 aerial photographs and his cameras were carried aboard Apollo 15, 16, and 17 to map the moon.

UCSB is one of only three institutions to hold part of the original collection from Fairchild Aerial Surveys, which is no longer in operation. The acquisition brings the vast majority of Fairchild's vertical imagery of California to UCSB.  UCLA continues to hold the oblique portion of the collection (photographs taken at an angle instead of straight down) in its Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives.

It will take staff in UCSB Library’s Map and Imagery Laboratory (MIL) approximately six months to process and catalog the acquisition and make it available to the public. The UCSB Library is actively looking for partners to support the preservation and digitization of its aerial photograph collection.

UCSB Library contains the most comprehensive collection of aerial photographs of California in existence. MIL provides free access to all of its collections for UC students and researchers. Fees are charged for non-UC sponsored research and commercial use of the collections.

For more information about UCSB Library’s Map & Imagery Laboratory and its holdings, visit

Aerial Photomap of Metropolitan Los Angeles.  1958.