(Aug. 9, 2019) Since dedicating a nearly demolished Victorian-era structure as the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum on Christmas Day in 1978, the Ocean City Museum Society has archived a vast array of photographs and postcards from distant days at the shore, which are now available to peruse online.
Assistant Curator Christine Okerblom said the addition to the website ocmuseum.org is intended to open access to the treasure trove of images from bygone eras.
“It’s something we wanted to do for a while now,” she said.
To view several collections of images at ocmuseum.org, first select the “research” tab located at the top of the home page and then choose “search our collections.”
On top of that page, ocmuseum.pastperfectonline.com, select the “archive” tab to access more than 2,800 vintage postcard images or choose the “photos” tab to browse more than 6,200 photographs covering over a century of shore history.
“This is great for research or you can just do it for fun,” she said. “Then if you want to inquire about purchasing a copy of a photograph or a postcard the website allows you to do that as well.”
While thousands of snapshots from yesteryear might be an oversized portion for the average beach aficionado, Okerblom said the online collection will hold special sway for researchers and history buffs.
“This is really built for research and being able to look at mass photographs and postcards in an easy way,” she said. “Of course, they’re open to the public to inquire about, and people have … we’ve gotten a really positive response.”
Including a third batch of random images, Okerblom said the museum’s website has roughly 10,000 visuals documenting the history of Ocean City.
“The museum is great, and you can visit it to see our exhibits and attend our programs,” she said. “If you want to take a further look into history you can do so by going online and looking at our collection.”
Okerblom said museum staff often assist academics, authors, reporters and the general public locate specific requests.
“If you want to see an old picture of a particular business the options are endless,” she said. “You can go online and see if we have a copy of it.”
What previously would have required an in-person visit can now largely be accomplished remotely, Okerblom said.
“You have authors who may need several images for their new book and we have people that are doing research,” she said. “You get people who want to see perhaps the history of their family [or ask], ‘do you have a picture of my grandfather.’”
Enabling open access to the storehouse of photographs and postcards brings the museum’s mission full circle, Okerblom said.
“This is our collection and people have donated from day one,” she said. “It could come from private donations [or] from a resident … that may have photographs of Ocean City.”
Ocean City Museum Society President Nancy Howard said the group’s founding mission was to preserve the circa-1891 era Ocean City Life-Saving Station building. The structure had been used by the Coast Guard until 1964 and was slated for demolition in 1977, but was repurposed as a historic-themed tourist attraction that began receiving donations of beach artifacts right away.
“The museum is grateful to people who … bring us things that are appropriate to the mission, which of course is the life-saving service and the Town of Ocean City,” she said.
Okerblom said photographs, postcards or other items tied to the resort or the life-saving service are routinely donated to the museum, which then assures its longevity.
“The best thing about giving us a copy is the behind-the-scenes process,” she said. “If you give us an actual original photograph we store it appropriately, so it is preserved and won’t fade or deteriorate.”
Decades of maintenance and preservation have now blossomed into an online archive.
“The newest leg of our efforts to save, organize and share these photographs and postcards is this online application,” she said. “The benefit is you can access it from home, it’s open to everyone and that’s the goal of preserving and sharing the history … everyone has access.”
Howard said the museum’s ability to share resort history, regardless of the medium, is the product of community connectivity.
“It’s not just postcards and photographs,” she said. “These are things that we provide, and people have provided us. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
For more information, contact the museum, located at the southern end of the Boardwalk, at 410-289-4991.