Steve Noll, former Executive Director, and Brent Schondelmeyer, board member, of the Jackson County Historical Society (JCHS), spoke at Code for KC’s Learn Night on April 23, 2018. They shared information about how the Wilborn Collection came to be, what it represents, and challenges the JCHS faces going forward. 

The Wilborn Collection is a set of photographs collected by Chris Wilborn’s father and saved by his son, photographer Chris Wilborn. Under the leadership of then-Executive Director Steve Noll, the JCHS purchased the negatives from the Wilborn family in May of 2017. They moved them into a space with the perfect environment to keep the negatives in good condition. 

The collection is over 300 boxes containing over between 300,000 and 400,000 high quality images in a variety of formats. These include glass plate, nitrate, acetate, 35mm, panoramic negatives, and positive prints. The JCHS expects it to take at least 5 years to develop all of these images and have them on display. 

The JCHS’s goals for this collection are to digitize most of the images and make them accessible online to the public. This will mean about 500,000 digital files on rented server space. For the public to access them, there will need to be simple browsing functions as well as tagging and metadata. The JCHS hopes to incorporate crowdsourced image identification and purchasing options.

Chris Wilborn is happy that the photos are in the possession of an organization that will keep these historical documents in Kansas City, with people who know how to keep them in good shape and displayed for the community at large to appreciate. 

If you would like to learn more about the project or donate to keep the momentum going, visit:

To view presentation slides from the Learn Night, visit our slideshare. 

Code for KC hosts Learn Nights every third Monday of the month from 6-8 pm.

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