The Burgert family's impact on commercial photography began in 1899, when S.P. Burgert and Son first opened a photographic studio in at 506 ½ Franklin Street in Tampa. By 1918, the Burgert Brothers Commercial Photography Studio, with brothers Jean and Al Burgert at the helm, was firmly established in Tampa providing commercial photography services to the West Coast region of Florida. The firm continued in operation until 1963. During this time, the Burgerts and their staff took over 80,000 photographs for their clients. Their photographs appeared in Life and National Geographic magazines, as well as local newspapers, advertisements, promotional brochures and displays for stores and offices. The distinctive handwritten Burgert Brothers logo on the lower corner of the photographs became a hallmark of photographic excellence, reflecting both the quality of the Burgerts' work and their business integrity.
After the Burgert Brothers Studio closed, their photographs and negatives were stored in a tin-roofed garage in South Tampa. Many negatives were destroyed by heat, humidity and rain. In 1974, the Friends of the Library recognized the historic significance of the photographic images and purchased the collection for the Library so the Burgerts' photographs would be accessible to the public.
8" x 10" Negatives
The Library's initial preservation focused on the 8"x10" negatives in the collection. Approximately 8,000 of these negatives were on nitrate-based film, a highly flammable stock capable of spontaneous combustion. Nearly 2,000 were on cellulose acetate dating from the early 1930s. Many of these negatives were in the early stages of deterioration because they were extremely susceptible to damage from heat and humidity. To forestall further damage, the Library began the task of transferring the nitrate and cellulose acetate images to modern safety film. Thanks to grants received in 1988 and 1992 from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, and funds from the Library System's budget, the Library has preserved over 14,000 of the endangered 8" x 10" images.
These negatives are named after the special "Cirkut" camera that could rotate up to 360° to produce sweeping panoramic views. The negatives were produced on nitrate film and had deteriorated severely over the years. The library has created new negatives and prints from these old negatives.
Digitizing the photographs provided an additional security for image preservation while enhancing the visual accessibility of the collection. In 1997, the library was awarded a grant by the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, a local philanthropic organization in the Tampa Bay area. Grant money has been used to purchase imaging equipment and graphics software.
Over 14,000 images from the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection have been scanned. Using the library's own photographic prints, images are scanned at a resolution of 100 dots-per-inch (DPI). The black & white images have a tonal resolution of 8 bits-per-pixel. All scanned images have been saved in JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format and are loaded on a library Web server reserved for the scanned photographic images.
The Cirkut prints have been scanned at a resolution of 400 dots-per-inch (DPI) and saved as uncompressed TIFF files. 100 DPI JPEG versions of these images have been made for online viewing purposes. The digital collection resides on a CONTENTdm Server creating an easy viewing environment for customers visiting the library's Digital Collections Archive on our website.
The Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection represents a visual link with our past and heritage. Today the negatives are preserved in a climate-controlled vault and in freezers located at the John F. Germany Public Library. The preservation of these materials is an ongoing process requiring damaged or deteriorated negatives and photographs to be replaced. Tax-deductible donations can help defray the cost of maintaining and preserving this vital part of our history. Joining the Friends of the Library also helps fund the preservation costs allowing this collection to be accessible to future generations.