Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t see the answer to your question here, please contact us.

How many items are in the Digital Archive?

Oh if we only knew! Our collection began somewhere around the year 1900 and was maintained sporadically until about 10 years ago. Most of our photographs were acquired as prints, negatives, glass plates, or other physical items which we have been scanning into digital form over the last 12 years. Most, but not all of our collection has been scanned and we continue to receive more items. Currently the Digital Archive makes over 10,000 items available online, most of them photographs. Our best guess is that we have an additional 30,000 items in our backlog.

How can I purchase a print or digital file?

When viewing an image, click on the “Request this Image” link that appears in the caption area below the image. That will take you to a page with information on how to order a print or digital download.

How can I add or correct information about items in the Digital Archive?

We are always eager to learn more about the people, places, structures, vessels and other items in the Archive.  As we continue to add items and establish relationships we know there are gaps and occasionally errors which we would love to correct. Please contact the curator and let us know what you know or what needs fixing.

Can I donate photographs or other materials to the Archive?

Yes, we would love to see your historic photographs, documents, publications, or maps. Tell us what you have and we will determine if your photographs are appropriate for the collection. Remember this is a digital collection so physical objects themselves generally aren’t accepted, though photographs of them would be most welcome.

Can I use a photograph from the Archive in my book or publication?

If you wish to publish something from the Archive and it belongs to us or has been shared with us without restrictions, we will try to help. The Southwest Harbor Public Library is a non-profit institution and we therefore cannot participate in for-profit projects. We are, however, a service institution dedicated to supporting historical and scholarly enterprises. Please review our Usage Policy to learn more.

How do I properly cite an item in the Archive?

The full citation is shown in the left column on every item page. When publishing an image from the Digital Archive, give credit to “Southwest Harbor Public Library Digital Archive.”

How can I find specific items or information about my family, a house, or a boat?

There are several ways to search for items ranging from typing keywords in the text box in the upper right of every page to powerful search filters. Simple Search is quick and easy to use. Advanced Search provides powerful filters for narrowing results down to exactly what you are looking for. Read more by clicking the Searching link in the top menu.

Where do you get your genealogical information?

We consult information collected by the library for years and use We are also fortunate to have access to Southwest Harbor native, Lynne Birlem’s, detailed genealogy. Lynne has provided a wealth of information about the people in the Archive as well as previous property owner lists and deeds related to the houses. You can view her database online at Search for lbirlem in the Members section.

Why isn’t my family or their house or boat in the collection?

We may not have been given photographs or information about your family or their house or we may not have added these items to the collection yet. We welcome new photographs and information about Mount Desert Island.

One thing to note: We list houses and cottages by the name of the original owner and also try to reference as many later owners as possible. Please contact the curator if you need help finding information in the Archive.

Do you modify photographs?

We scan every photograph at high resolution and keep one absolutely unmodified copy. Sometimes a photograph is very old or damaged, making it hard to see details properly. Then we make a copy of the original scan and use image programs such as Photoshop to clean up the image as much as possible.

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