Smithsonian Acquires Lifetouch Donation for Photographic History Collection

December 19, 2010
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently received a donation of historic materials from Lifetouch Inc. as part of its effort to record the history of photography. Lifetouch, an employee-owned photography company, specializes in portraiture at schools, studios and churches. The donation includes two cameras, patent drawings and interviews with the inventors that will complement the museum’s collection of some 15,000 pieces of photographic apparatus and more than 200,000 photographs.

Lifetouch has donated a Micro-Z and a TruView camera system, both patented in the early 1980s. The Micro-Z camera exposed a bar code and student information on the negative, simplifying the process of matching a student with a picture. The TruView camera also exposed bar codes on the negative but additionally allowed a customer to preview a digital image before the film image was developed. Neither camera is in use today; they are good examples of the transition between conventional and digital photography. The interviews will serve as historical documents, recording the business’s technical designers discussing the ways Lifetouch made the business of wide-scale production of individual images more efficient through improved technology.

“The photographic history collection includes a number of class and individual school pictures and historical yearbooks representing the consumer’s perspective,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “This donation represents the industry and business side of this business.”

“The employee-owners of Lifetouch are proud to see these artifacts from our corporate history preserved by our nation’s museum,” said Paul Harmel, chairman and CEO of Lifetouch Inc. “The Micro-Z and TruView cameras were instrumental in creating the Lifetouch of today.”

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).