The Big Data Archive: Digitising Ed Ruscha’s Streets of Los Angeles

Nathaniel Deines, Getty Digital,

Zanna Gilbert, Getty Research Institute,

In 2012, the Getty Research Institute acquired a significant portion of the Streets of Los Angeles archive, a collection of over 500,000 images of Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and other thoroughfares, compiled by Ed Ruscha beginning in 1965. Although Ruscha’s book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) is well known as a landmark of artists’ publishing, the larger photographic project was virtually unknown.

The images within the Streets of Los Angeles archive exist primarily as negatives, many spooled onto motion picture film reels, meaning that traditional archival processing procedures would not be sufficient to make the archive accessible. Thus in 2017, the Getty launched a project to digitise a selection of 120,000 images from the archive, and invited scholars working individually and in teams, to conduct research projects related to the resulting corpus of digital images. In summer 2020, the Getty will make the collections publicly available for research via the new Research Collections Viewer as well as the web platform 12 Sunsets. This panel invites proposals that engage with the diverse scholarly potentials of Ruscha’s Streets of Los Angeles archive in the fields of architecture, urban geography, art, archives and the use of computational methodologies for research.

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