These approximately 1,000 images are part of a much larger series of photographs gathered by the New York State Science Service from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The entire collection encompasses all of the major themes of the Science Service, including botany, entomology and paleontology, and documents nearly every corner of the New York State landscape. The entire collection was transferred to the history wing of the Museum in 1990.
The images shown here were created to show the relationship between the State's natural resources and commercial uses. A significant portion was taken as part of the effort that led to the State Museum's classic work, The Clays of New York (1900). Indeed, many were taken by the author himself, Heinrich Ries. His research documented brickmaking in the Hudson Valley or pottery production in Syracuse. The collection also shows iron mining in Essex County or limestone quarries in Onondaga County.
The images come from the original glass dry-plate negatives. The collection was historically arranged by the size of the glass negative and by the county of origin.