Here at the Champaign County Historical Archives (CCHA), we have begun working on the Storch Photography Collection, donated by the family of Stephen Storch, a photographer who lived and worked in Champaign-Urbana. Thanks to the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board (ISHRAB), we have recently begun a grant-funded project to better preserve these materials by rehousing the photos and negatives into archival envelopes and boxes. In addition to providing a preservation quality environment for the collection, the materials will also be more easily navigable. While all of these photos and negatives will be available for public use at CCHA once the collection is processed, we will also digitize some images to include in our digital collections.

One such sub-group of photos is the Cotillion Ball. The Cotillion Ball was started in 1972 by the Epsilon Mu Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Its purpose is to celebrate young Black women who are good students and very involved in their schools and community. While we do not have the photos from that first Cotillion (or have yet to unearth them!), we have the photos from many of the balls between 1973 to 2001. 

Cotillion member of the 1973 class.
The 1973 debutantes and their escorts from the 2nd annual Cotillion Ball lined up on a staircase. From front to back: Flourine Kent, Priscilla Nash, Diane Weatherspoon, Jessica Bennett, and Yolantha Harrison.
A 1996 Cotillion member poses with her parents on either side.
One of 1996's debutantes, LaShaundra Diane Lockett with her mother and her grandfather, Syral Easley.

For my part, I have been focused almost entirely on digitization. It is a time-consuming process since, for each photograph, we have been creating two copies: an access copy and a preservation copy. I have digitized over 1000 negatives so far! If you have ever digitized any photographs (or if you want to!), you might know that you have to pay attention to DPI, or dots per inch, which measures the image’s resolution.  The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution. Higher resolution also means a larger file size. Our access photos are used to share with the public in digital exhibits or online through our catalog. At the same time, the preservation copies, with their higher resolution, contains the uncompressed information from the negative and can be shared upon request. If you have photos that you want to digitize and wish to learn about the process, come on in to the Archives! We would be happy to give you tips and tricks about how to get started!


Archives Apprentice


1Doris Hoskins, “The Cotillion,” Through the Years: African-American History in Champaign County, Spring 1998, 1.