A late 19th-century “man den.” A zoomable version is available at Deep Zoom Chattanooga. (Photo: Contributed)

A collection of glass plate negatives depicting life in Chattanooga during the late 19th century has received the Deep Zoom treatment.

Deep Zoom Chattanooga uses computer software to make high-resolution images interactive. This allows users to “zoom” into the photos without losing resolution. Glass plate negatives offer the highest resolution possible, making them great candidates for the Deep Zoom technology.

Currently, six photos have been given the Deep Zoom treatment, with “dozens more” expected in the coming weeks, according to the website. Click here to view the images using the Deep Zoom technology. 

Picnooga organizers discovered more than 400 glass plate negatives as part of an online auction. They allowed the public to “adopt” the photographs for a fee, with each donor receiving a high-quality scan of a photo from the collection in return.

For the past few months, researchers have been slowly releasing the collection via Picnooga, Nooga.com and Deep Zoom Chattanooga.

Each of the photographs chosen for the Deep Zoom collection touches on a different aspect of Chattanooga life. The current batch depicts a spring festival at Oak and Douglas streets, two women posing at White Oak Cemetery, a powerful photo of a woman holding a large Bible, a 19th-century version of a man cave, and another photo taken atop Loveman’s.

Sam Hall, creator of Deep Zoom Chattanooga, said that glass plate negatives made high-resolution photos available 100 years before there was a practical way to scan them to their fullest potential.

“Due to a fluke of timing and technology, they had higher-resolution capabilities than they could experience,” he said. “Really, only now are we starting to move toward gigapixel. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to work on these. I’ve had a blast . It’s been like looking at a time machine.”

Hall said about 100 of the glass plate negatives will be given the Deep Zoom treatment.

“So many of them weren’t that great,” he said. “It’s just like any other photographer, except it took a lot more effort to make a bad photo. An entire box we received was out of focus.”

The photographer is thought to have been Charles Gustavus Walline, an employee at Chattanooga’s D.B. Loveman’s Department Store at the time the photos were taken between 1898 and 1900. He was in his mid-20s and was simply an amateur photographer exploring a new technology. 

Hall said they are researching Walline’s story, which Hall will eventually feature on the Deep Zoom website.

A portion of the collection was recently released on Mashable. Other photographs can be viewed here and here.