The Bettmann Archive is one of the most significant historical photo collections in the world, comprising more than 11 million negatives and prints, spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. Its strength lies in the sheer diversity of the subject matter it covers—from notable events and iconic moments of the 20th century to the everyday.
Its legacy dates back to 1935 when curator and historian Otto Bettmann arrived in New York with two steamer trunks filled with pictures and a vision to create a photo archive that would support the quickly expanding worlds of print media and magazines. Over the decades, Bettmann’s collection evolved and grew, notably through the addition of major press archives such as those of UPI, INP, ACME, and Pacific and Atlantic. Those expansion efforts are continued today through the efforts of Getty Images archivists who consistently uncover new content from the analogue files, adding to a wealth of imagery which has already been digitized.
The Bettmann Archive is housed in a dedicated preservation facility 220 feet underground in a limestone mine, in a state-of-the-art facility with a temperature-controlled environment which ensures that the collection is not only accessible via the expertise of its archivists today, but is also preserved for future generations to come. The Archive was purchased in1995 by Corbis, a photo agency owned by Bill Gates, and later sold to VCG which partners with Getty Images for preservation and distribution.