About the Photographs and the Project
From 1908 to 1932, Sidney Gamble (1890-1968) visited China four times, traveling throughout the country to collect data for social-economic surveys and to photograph urban and rural life, public events, architecture, religious statuary, and the countryside. A sociologist, renowned China scholar, and avid amateur photographer, Gamble used some of the pictures to illustrate his monographs. The Sidney D. Gamble Photographs digital collection marks the first comprehensive public presentation of this large body of work that includes photographs of Korea, Japan, Hawaii, San Francisco, and Russia. The site currently features photographs dated between 1917 and 1932; the 1908 photographs will be digitized and uploaded as part of future additions to the site.
In spring 2009 two sections of Duke University's freshman writing class, Writing 20, used the University's on-line collection of photographs taken by Sidney Gamble as a window onto Republican China. Here we present captions developed by class members; these captions are intended to contextualize Gamble's photos in the dramatic changes that took place during this period.
The photograph captions are based on the handwritten and typed descriptions found on the original negative sleeves and believed to be the work of Sidney Gamble. The captions and photographs may contain language or stereotypes reflecting the cultural perspective of the era. This content is provided as part of the historical record and does not reflect the views of the Duke University Libraries.
Sidney D. Gamble
Copyright and Citation
The materials in this collection are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Texts and images from this collection may not be used for any commercial purpose without prior permission. Copyright in these images is held by Duke University Libraries and/or the heirs of Sidney D. Gamble. All rights are reserved, except as specified above. When use is made of these texts and images, it is the responsibility of the user to secure any necessary permissions and to observe the stated access policy, the laws of copyright, and the educational fair use guidelines. For permission from Duke University, insofar as Duke is able to give permission, please contact us.
Preferred Citation[Identification of item], Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, Archive of Documentary Arts, Duke University.
Sidney D. Gamble (1890-1968), an avid amateur photographer, began taking pictures in China during his first trip to the country with his family in 1908. He returned three more times between 1917 and 1932 and continued photographing the daily life of Chinese citizens. Sidney Gamble used a few pictures from his extensive collection in his scholarly publications and in slide lectures, but the majority of images were never exhibited during his lifetime.
Discovery of the Photographs
About 15 years after Gamble’s death, his daughter, Catherine Curran, found the nitrate negatives in a closet in the family’s home in New York. Stored in beautiful rosewood boxes, the negatives were housed in individual paper sleeves, annotated with typed and handwritten captions. In order to better preserve them, Ms. Curran hired an archivist, who transferred the negatives into archival sleeves and transcribed the captions onto typed labels that were affixed to the new sleeves. In addition, Ms. Curran made contact sheets of all the negatives in the order in which they were found. She used these contact prints to create ten photograph albums to serve as a reference for the negative collection.
In 1986, Catherine Curran established the Sidney D. Gamble Foundation for China Studies to provide for preservation and access to the photographs. A review of the first exhibit catalog prompted the Duke University Libraries' Visual Materials Archivist to invite Ms. Curran to place Sidney Gamble’s photographs in the Libraries' Archive of Documentary Arts. An agreement to bring the Gamble collection to Duke was signed in March 2006.
The Gamble Collection at Duke University
The Duke Libraries contracted with Chicago Albumen Works in Massachusetts to digitize the highly-flammable nitrate negatives. Digitization of the Gamble collection began in October 2006 and continued through the spring of 2007. In addition to the photographs, the vendor also digitized the typed image labels and used optical character recognition (OCR) to transform the labels into raw text. This text became the foundation for the image captions and geographic headings in the Sidney D. Gamble Photographs digital collection.
In early 2008, Duke Libraries' Digital Collections staff worked to update the geographic names in the labels to Library of Congress Subject Headings format, to add province names to the metadata, and to standardize the descriptions to support searching and browsing. Staff also created an interactive map documenting the places Gamble visited on his journeys, as well as a geographic index and a keyword index in traditional and simplified Chinese characters.
Future plans for the Sidney D. Gamble digital collection include enhancing the site with further Chinese-language translations and digitizing additional materials, such as slides from the 1908 trip, correspondence, and printed items. The Web site will continue to grow and evolve to support research, teaching, and learning.