Gulf Coast Image Collection Now Online - posted November 14, 2016
One of the newest collections being added to the MDAH Digital Archives offers a rare, early look at life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Randy Randazzo Collection contains more than 4,000 color and black-and-white postcards of shipbuilding, hotels, hurricanes, agriculture, seafood factories, Camp Shelby, Keesler Air Base, and Ship Island, and more than 1,000 negatives from the 1920s and ’30s of Biloxi Back Bay factories, regatta races, the annual blessing of the fleet, and other moments largely lost to time.
The collection is being processed and cataloged by location, and pieces are being scanned in alphabetical order and added to the digital archives. Nearly 400 are viewable online now.
When the scanning of the postcards is complete, work will begin on the negatives, most of which Randazzo attributes to Anthony Ragusin, a professional photographer who covered the Gulf Coast from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. The negatives were acquired by Randazzo’s uncle Walter Fountain, a Biloxi historian whom Randazzo credits with sparking his own interest in history and collecting.
Randy Randazzo is a ninth-generation Biloxian. After an army career, graduate school in Texas, and a move to Atlanta, Randazzo began collecting postcards in 1992 when he came across a set of antique postcards of Biloxi and Pass Christian while Christmas shopping.
“I started seriously collecting in 1993 and for many years would arrange my travel schedule around postcard conventions,” said Randazzo. “After twenty years and over 4,000 cards it was hard to find something I didn’t have, and I was ready to donate them. I was very impressed with the level of professionalism at the state archives and that they will be put online so people from the coast can access them but the cards will be safe from hurricanes.”