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Digital Collections : Kate Matthews Collection

Kate Matthews Collection

About the Collection

This digital collection celebrates the work of photographer Kate Seston Matthews (1870-1956). Born in New Albany, Indiana, Matthews spent most of her life in Pewee Valley, Kentucky, where she began taking photographs in the 1880s. Matthews relied almost exclusively on her own community and acquaintances as subjects -- a favor she returned by reproducing and signing her photographs for friends and family. While she is best known for her photographs depicting characters in the Little Colonel series of children's books written by her friend and neighbor Annie Fellows Johnston, Matthews also created tableaux vivants, or living pictures, based on nursery rhymes, fairy tales, poetry, and other works of art, and she captured on film an idyllic view of the people, architecture, and landscape of her in the small, rural community near Louisville, Kentucky.

Much of Kate Matthews' work was lost a few years after her death when a fire destroyed Clovercroft, the Matthews' family home in Pewee Valley. Fortunately, in the early 1960s, Robert J. Doherty, then Curator of the University of Louisville's Photographic Archives, launched a program to locate and catalog as much of Matthews' remaining work as possible. Doherty and Richard Duncan, a Pewee Valley resident and partner in Kentucky's leading photographic studio, Caulfield & Shook, Inc., initially made prints and copy negatives from glass negatives and original prints which Kate Matthews had given to friends and relatives. Over time several individuals, including Matthews' great-nephew, Matthews Fletcher, and Johnston's stepdaughter, Mary Johnston, generously donated many of those original items along with other albums and hand-tinted prints to the university's Photographic Archives. Through donation and purchase, the University of Louisville now houses the largest extant collection of Kate Matthews' work, with over 760 items including more than 362 original prints; seventy-six original negatives; one original painting; and copies of at least thirty-eight other distinct photographic images attributed to Matthews.

This digital collection consists of 431 items, one of which is a four-page compound object, for a total of 434 digital images. Images known to be the work of another member of Matthews' family, as well as duplicate images found in more than one format or accession, have been eliminated from the digital collection, resulting in a smaller item count than that of the physical collection described above. Every image in the physical collection attributed to Kate Matthews is presented at least once in the digital collection. Digital images with multiple representations in the physical collection are noted, with their image numbers listed in the "Related Images" field of the corresponding metadata records. In general, two or more images made from the same negative are included in this digital collection only if they differ in color treatment or layout (e.g., vertical vs. horizontal).

While every image in the digital collection was attributed to Kate Matthews by its original owner, we have been unable to verify that for a few family photographs and snapshots. Thus, although those images have been included in the digital collection, Matthews is not listed as their Creator in the metadata records. Whenever possible, we have used titles handwritten by Kate Matthews and/or published during her lifetime: 139 digital images bear such titles, with the remainder assigned descriptive titles which are indicated by brackets. See About the Project for further information about metadata.

Conditions of Use

The University of Louisville welcomes fair use of this website and its contents. If you wish to publish, broadcast, or publicly display these materials, please notify Archives and Special Collections. In addition, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions, which may include paying fees for commercial use. For further information about permissions, use, and ordering reproductions, see Order Reproductions, or contact Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville.

To cite an image from this collection, please use the format:

[Image Number], Kate Matthews Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

To cite the digital version, add its Reference URL (found by following the link in the header above the digital file).


Susan Finley led the efforts to digitize the Kate Matthews Collection. She researched all accessions of Kate Matthews-related materials in Photographic Archives; selected, cataloged, and imported the best versions of each image for online presentation into CONTENTdm Digital Collection Management Software version 4.3; created CONTENTdm custom queries for categories represented by Matthews' work; and updated the biography of Kate Matthews, based on an earlier version by Delinda Stephens Buie and James C. "Andy" Anderson.

Steve Locke, owner of the Samuel Culbertson Mansion, and Pewee Valley resident Donna Russell have produced the invaluable The Little Colonel website and provided help identifying people and places in the photographs, with assistance from Marjorie Fletcher Thompson, Virginia Herdt Chaudoin, and Louise Herdt Marker.

Joanna Y. Cruz, Rachel L. Gunn, Rachel I. Howard, Courtney L. Hughes, and Susannah Starks scanned the images in 2007, typically using an Epson Expression 1680 flatbed scanner. Each print was scanned as a 600 ppi, 24-bit RGB TIFF file. One oversized painting, 1980.15.017, was scanned on a BetterLight overhead scanning setup including a Linhof Kardan M camera with 120mm Rodenstock lens. Black-and-white flexible film and glass negatives were scanned as 600 ppi, 8-bit grayscale TIFF files. 35mm color slides were scanned using a Nikon Coolscan IV. All scans were cropped to the edges of the image content (usually eliminating frames, signatures, and inscriptions) and scaled to 10 inches on the long side, to facilitate production of 8x10 prints. Bill Carner adjusted levels and set unsharp mask on some of the scans, and Rachel I. Howard converted the TIFFs into JPEGs of Best quality, 600 pixels on the long side, using IrfanView version 3.98. Terri L. Holtze designed the HTML pages.

Metadata was created in accordance with the University of Louisville Digital Initiatives data dictionary (PDF). Titles supplied by cataloger have been noted in the Description field; all other titles were provided by Matthews.

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