In August of 1971 the University Library gratefully received the photographic holdings of Branson DeCou. The gift had been referred to then UCSC Chancellor Dean McHenry by photographer Ansel Adams, who had earlier documented the wooded campus and was a Carmel neighbor of Elsie DeCou. The gift included 10,000 hand-tinted 3-1/4″ x 4-1/4″ glass lantern slides used in years of travel lecture tours covering all countries of the world, from ca. 1920-1941; there were also accompanying negatives, albums of prints, lecture notes, slide storage boxes, and two slide projectors. The gift was facilitated by Robert Fessenden, the Head of Resources and Technical Services, who would later handle the appraisal and continue for many years to correspond with the irascible and eccentric Elsie DeCou, widow of the photographer. The 10,000 glass slides and projection hardware are stored in the University Library’s Visual Resource Collection, the negatives and albums in Special Collections and the UC Northern Regional Library Facility. Owing to their fragility and lack of identification and indexing, the lantern slides have remained inaccessible to the public. In 1986, a preservation project was undertaken by Gypsy Ray, a photographic conservator, to sort, stabilize and note damage to DeCou’s negatives. In the last two decades, grants from the American Irish Foundation and the Friends of the UCSC Library have enabled small portions of the collection to be indexed and preserved. Believing that the images represented in the DeCou Archive hold documentary and artistic value, we have continued to seek external funding to support processing and allow public access to the holdings.
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