The David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography consists of over 100,000 images in a variety of formats including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, cabinet photographs, real photo postcards, stereographs, and mounted and unmounted paper prints. The collection is primarily made up of vernacular photographs of everyday life in Michigan taken by both professional and amateur photographers from the 1840s into the mid-twentieth century. In addition to supporting local history research, the collection has resources for the study of specific events and subjects. Included are images related to lumbering, mining, suburbanization; the industrialization of cities; travel and transportation; the impact of the automobile; the rise of middle-class leisure society; fashion and dress; ethnicity and race; the role of fraternal organizations in society; and the participation of photographers in business, domestic, and social life. The collection is only partially open for research.
The subject contents of different photographic format series within the Tinder collection vary, depending in part upon how each format was historically used, and the date range of that format's popularity. For example, cartes de visite and cased images are most often formal studio portraits, while stereographs are likely to be outdoor views. Cabinet photographs are frequently portraits, but often composed with less formality than the cartes de visite and cased images. The postcards and the mounted prints contain very diverse subjects. The photographers' file contains many important and rare images of photographers, their galleries, promotional images, and the activities of photographers in the field. See individual series descriptions in the Contents List below for more specific details.
Included throughout are images by both professional and amateur photographers, although those by professionals are extant in far greater numbers.