Photographs (positive and negative), slides, and transparencies taken by the company's photographers to document company activities, products, services, employees at work and at leisure, company exhibits and commemorations, and the response of the company to natural disasters and civil disturbances.
In 1993, Michigan Bell as a corporate entity was subsumed within the Ameritech Corporation. As a by-product of this reorganization and the downsizing resulting from it, the company agreed to deposit with the Bentley Historical Library its extensive archive of photographic images. Totalling approximately one million images, the Michigan Bell Telephone Company photo archive consists of negatives, copy prints, and color transparencies taken in the period since World War II (the bulk beginning in 1949). The collection does not include photos taken since 1983; interspersed throughout, however, are numerous images from before 1949.
The collection has been maintained in the order received with two principal series: Positives and Negatives.
The content of the photographs in the two series varies considerably. Naturally the collection documents the products of the company (phones and other communication devices) and the services provided (e.g. employees at work or the company reacting to a specific customer need). These photos were taken both to inform the general public as accompaniment to press notices and advertising copy and as a communications vehicle within the company, informing employees through the company news publication, Tielines, of activities going on in other divisions of the company or among the various regional Bell offices.
More importantly perhaps, the collection has value for its documentation of events and activities that are common to all large companies. These include images relating to: 1. The activities of employees within the corporation at their work (office workers, repairmen, operators, various support personnel, managers, etc.); 2. The activities of employees outside their work routine as members of corporate social groups (i.e., the company baseball or ice hockey team), at home engaged in leisure time activities, or involved in company-sponsored charitable or public service functions; and 3. Commemorations of specific milestones or events (company parade floats, area office open houses, corporate displays at public events such as fairs, etc.).
In addition, the collection documents the extraordinary and unforeseen as the phone company reacts to events and emergencies not within its control (floods, tornadoes, fires, the 1967 Detroit riot, strikes, and the like) or as a participant in history-making events (the announcement in Ann Arbor of the success of the Salk polio vaccine or the preparation involved in the 1980 Republican National Convention that convened in Detroit).