Walter M. Andersen in Soden's Grove, Emporia, 1941.
Walter Andersen was an Emporia railroad worker with an interest in photography from the time of his military service in the 1940s until his death in 2001. After his retirement in 1972, and with the help of his wife Viola, he devoted much of his time to building a collection of photographic prints and negatives documenting the history of Emporia and surrounding towns. He was also keenly interested in photographs having to do with railroads in Kansas.
Perhaps one-eighth of the collection are original photographs taken by Andersen. The rest of the photographs often have more uncertain origins. Andersen encouraged local people to bring him old photographs and postcards, which he would reproduce and add to his collection, sometimes with extensive touching up to improve the quality of the photos. A small portion of the collection consists of photographs of gift cards and advertisements or cartoons Andersen found in newspapers and magazines.
We've estimated that the collection consists of some 12,000 prints and 20,000 negatives. Most of the prints are black and white photos, approximately 7 x 10" in size, and are stored in plastic sleeves. Most of them are arranged by subject in 130 three-ring binders, and have captions, either handwritten or on typed labels. They usually have a number code that corresponds to the photograph's negative. The negatives are stored by number code in paper sleeves in a cabinet. There are also four or five photo paper boxes with photographs and/or negatives that Andersen had not yet copied or filed when he died. Two of these boxes contain photos (by other photographers) that were apparently published in the local newspaper in the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s. There are also two boxes of glass plates, and three binders of slides.
The collection also includes scrapbooks, Emporia City Directories, and souvenir books, along with miscellaneous items such as the table Andersen worked at, a large framed photograph, a framed railroad map, and the typewriter he used to type captions.
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Ashley Todd-Diaz, Curator
Shari Scribner, Assistant Archivist
Michelle Franklin, Archives Assistant
William Allen White Library 119