Bureau of Reclamation Photography and Engineering Drawings Collections 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has an extensive collection of still and moving images dating from 1902. These collections include photographs [black and white, color, and color slides], movie, and video footage. Reclamation's official photographs relate to construction and maintenance of irrigation projects as well as the economic and social life of the area in which they are located. While most deal with the western United States, some collections contain images of the Southern U.S. in the 1920's and 30's, investigations of irrigation projects in foreign countries, and general subject matter from the turn of the century to the present. Historians researching local history topics will find numerous photographs of interest in this latter category. Included in the Yuma Project, for instance, are an early air show, panoramas of Yuma, Arizona, a ferry over the Colorado River, public buildings and private residences, and a parade through downtown.

Reclamation's photographic collections are found in several locations, including the regional offices located in Boise, Idaho, Billings, Montana; Sacramento, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Boulder City, Nevada; and their respective area offices. Even larger collections are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration in Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C. Between 35,000 and 40,000 images which pre-date the mid-1930's are housed at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. An additional 50,000 plus photos depicting more recent activities are maintained by the National Archives - Rocky Mountain branch in Denver. In total, Reclamation photographs exceed at least 500,000 images.

Researchers of local history will want to review the "project histories" that were created annually from about 1910 through the mid-1950's. These histories contain many photos of "before and after" construction activities, local towns, prominent buildings or structures, and those who built them. The project histories are generally available at the regional offices and in the collections of the National Archives in Denver.

Reclamation's engineering drawings are also quite extensive. These are of most interest to the historian of technology, engineering and civil construction. The most extensive collection of drawings is maintained on aperture cards at the Reclamation Service Center in Denver.

Archive of previously featured historic Reclamation photos

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Last Updated: 8/4/15