CLEMSON, South Carolina — Clemson University and the National Park Service have released the Open Parks Network, a digital gallery of rare and unique material from the archives of the country’s national parks, historic sites and battlefields. The network’s website is growing perpetually and currently features more than 100,000 high-resolution, public domain images.
The project team is adding 40 photo albums of material from Yellowstone National Park to coincide with the National Park Service Centennial on Aug. 25. Brett Wright, dean of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and project sponsor, said the original idea for the network was born from the desire of many park professionals to create a seamless network of information related to parks.
“Before the Open Parks Network, items in the park archives weren’t viewable unless you visited the park,” Wright said. “The network puts these treasures in the hands of anyone with an internet connection, enriches the experience of visitors and further appeals to the next generation of park-goers.”
The network’s collections are mostly photographic, but also include architectural plans and maps, all covering a wide range of topics and eras. These collections have many potential uses, such as interpretation and research that deals with pre-park history and land acquisition for park establishment. For professional park managers and rangers, the collection serves as a working body of documents to aid in park infrastructure and maintenance.
The network contains a breadth of information related to park infrastructure and historic structure renovations, as seen in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) photographs from Mammoth Cave National Park and numerous collections from Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Christopher Vinson, project director and head of technology at Clemson University Libraries, notes that even though these collections are primarily historical, they still offer many uses and provide a source of inspiration for modern park employees and researchers.