Since October, Archives staff have been working on a grant-funded project to rehouse the Stephen Storch Photography Collection, and to digitize a selection of the over 45,000 photograph negatives it contains. The negatives of the Cotillion Debutante Ball were chosen to be digitized and displayed online. The Cotillion celebrates local African American young women who excel academically and are involved in their communities. The ball began in 1972 and is still held to this day. The Storch Collection includes Cotillion negatives for many of the years between 1973 and 2001.

So far, 1,800 out of 3,000 Cotillion negatives have been digitized and we have now begun the process of uploading the images to our CCHA Flickr account. Since this is such a large collection, special care has been taken to make sure that we can connect the public copies that are hosted on Flickr with our high-resolution preservation copies. Not only is this important for citation information, but this also allows us to provide the preservation copies to patrons upon request.

Black and white photograph of a young African American woman in a white dress, seated, holding a flower and smiling at the camera.
Portrait of Debutante Diane Nearing, 1974.

We found (and digitized) more many more pictures than we originally estimated, so we decided to host the digital collection on Flickr, due to its large storage capacity. We have many other local history photograph collections

We have started uploading photos in separate albums for each year. Each album contains approximately 100 images of the debutantes, their escorts, and their families. Some years have enough images for multiple albums!

Black-and-white photograph of a young African American woman wearing a white dress and gloves, smiling at the camera.
Portrait of Debutante Lisa Causley, 1979.

We’ve also been working on identifying the people depicted in these photos, but unfortunately that is proving a bit tricky. Identifying the debutantes is the easiest, because we have access to the event programs that list their names, usually accompanied a photo. When we are particularly lucky, Storch had taken the photos that were used in the booklet, so it was just a matter of recognizing a photo that we had already digitized. We also have a collection of yearbooks that we have been using to cross reference. Identifying others has been proven a little tricky, but we are working to create solutions, including seeking community input. If you recognize anyone in the Flickr albums that have not been identified, please reach out and let us know!

You can read our previous post on this project here.

And explore albums for years 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1983, and 1992!

-Nicole Connell

Former Archives Apprentice