Thanks to the generosity of Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. ’57, the MIT Libraries will begin a project to digitize its Vail Balloon Print Collection. The prints are part of the Vail Collection, originally collected by George Dering, and purchased and given to the Institute in 1912 by Theodore Vail, former president of AT&T and member of the MIT Corporation.
Consisting of over 1200 items, the collection is replete with wonderful images providing visual documentation of man’s vision of flying vehicles and human flight. Images range from the fanciful to depictions of real events, such as the balloon sent up by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. Broadsides, articles, and clippings recount the history of man’s efforts to fly over the last three centuries, relating or commenting on individual efforts – some celebratory and other detailing the fatal results of failures.
The digitization of this premiere collection of prints will allow the world to better access these treasures; it is also a critical first step in their long-term preservation. The project will also serve as a model for future digitization projects within the Libraries.