Cole Collection

Allen E. Cole Collection, a Component of the African American Photographic Database

Since acquiring the Allen E. Cole photograph collection in 1979, the African American History Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society has shared the rich history of this photography with the greater Cleveland community. The collection consists of nearly 30,000 negatives, 6,000 original prints, 4 (four) 16mm films and one oil painting. Clearly, Allen E. Cole was much more than a studio photographer who rested on his ability to provide the African American community with photographic services–he was an artist who developed his style and shared his craft with the community.

The collection has proven its value to the WRHS with significant representation in shows about the African American experience. Overall, the preservation of the Cole collection has meant that a valuable source of Cleveland history is accessible to researchers and serves as a major collection documenting mid-twentieth century African American life, history, and culture. Numerous publications and productions including magazines, books, newspaper articles, documentaries, and television broadcasts have all found the collection invaluable. It has been 79 years since Allen E. Cole established his photographic services in Cleveland. The collective efforts of the WRHS staff, trustees, volunteers, and friends have insured that this valuable collection will be preserved in perpetuity.

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