John and Selma Appel Collection of Ethnic Images

Image of trialDr. John Appel, Professor Emeritus of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University and Adjunct Curator at the Michigan State University Museum, began his collection of immigrant and ethnic images in popular media in 1965. From his original motivation to illustrate lectures on immigration history, he began collecting a wide range of materials in a variety of media popular between the Civil War and World War I, the heaviest period of immigration to the United States. John's wife Selma was an important collaborator in assembling this collection.

The Appels contributed materials from their collection to numerous exhibitions on ethnic images and immigration throughout the United States and published several of their writings on the subject.

Dr. John Appel, Professor Emeritus of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University and Adjunct Curator at the Michigan State University Museum, began his collection of immigrant and ethnic images in popular media in 1965. From his original motivation to illustrate lectures on immigration history, he began collecting a wide range of materials showing racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes in a variety of media popular between the Civil War and World War I, the heaviest period of immigration to the United States. John Appel passed away in 1998.

Selma Appel, Adjunct Curator at the Michigan State University Museum, worked closely with John Appel in assembling and documenting this collection. Her work at the Museum also extended to her lifelong interest in needlework of all kinds. She co-curated a Museum exhibit on lacemaking traditions in 1999 and donated a Kit Quilt that is part of the Museum’s Great Lakes Quilt Center. Selma Appel passed away in 2008.

The Appels contributed materials from their collection to numerous exhibitions on ethnic images and immigration throughout the United States and published several of their writings on the subject.

An Obituary by Eric Goldstein, Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Emory University

The Michigan State University Museum is providing access to this collection of images for educational and research purposes.

The images presented on this website are in the public domain. Copyright for all accompanying text is held by the MSU Museum.

To purchase high-resolution scans for research and publication, please contact Pearl Yee Wong, Media Collections Coordinator, MSU Museum at Pearl Yee Wong.

For information on reproduction fees see: Fee Structure for Use of Materials

The materials in the John and Selma Appel collection represent a variety of media--political cartoons, postcards, sheet music covers, trade cards and stereo photographs. The digital images in this online collection have been produced through a variety of means.

Slides were scanned at an optical resolution of 1350 dpi using the Nikon LS-2000 Film Scanner. Small format media was scanned using a flat bed scanner. Large format media was photographed on a copy stand using a digital SLR. The captured images were then processed to create a set of three images for each item: a high-resolution archival copy, a good-quality reference copy (as seen in the exhibit), and a small, low resolution thumbnail copy.

The following technical standards apply to the digital images in the collection:

Archival Images: Spatial resolution of approximately 1800 pixels on the long side of the image, with the short side falling where it may. Pixel depth of 24 bits/pixel. Tagged Image File Format (TIFF), with no compression, sharpening, or other processing other than color correction.

Reference Images: Spatial resolution of approximately 640 pixels on the long side of the image, with the short side falling where it may. Pixel depth of 24 bits/pixel (color images) or 8 bits/pixel (greyscale). Images are compressed at an average ratio of 10:1 in the JPEG format. Reference images have been digitally "sharpened" to compensate for the loss of resolution required for a web-based presentation.

Thumbnail Images: Spatial resolution of approximately 150 pixels on the long side of the image, with the short side falling where it may. Pixel depth of 8 bits/pixel with an adaptive color palette. GIF-native compression is used, and images are sharpened to improve appearance.

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