ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Facial Recognition Software Is Helping Identify Unknown Figures in Civil War Photographs

By November 21, 2018Current News, Technology

Image: Betaface.com/Civil War Photo Sleuth

Cross-posted from smithsonianmag.org

[by Meilan Solly]

A new facial recognition application pioneered by computer scientist and historian Kurt Luther peers into the past—specifically the American Civil War—to identify anonymous portrait sitters captured in thousands of photographs taken over the course of the bloody four-year conflict.

As Erica X. Eisen reports for Slate, Civil War Photo Sleuth (CWPS) is a three-pronged collaboration launched in August by Luther and his Virginia Tech students; editor Ron Coddington of Military Images; and Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. The project, as Luther detailed in a 2017 article for Military Images, features a digital photo archive, research tools and a thriving online community.

Users can contribute their own images from personal collections or upload snapshots spotted in books, museums, cultural institutions, shops and miscellaneous sites across the world. These photographs then join thousands held in national and state archives accessible to the public, enabling CWPS to work toward its goal of becoming the world’s largest, most complete digital archive of identified and unidentified Civil War-era portraits.

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