It’s hard to make models of old buildings without knowing what they looked like in the past. Over a period of about 30 years, Charles Cushman, an exceptionally gifted amateur photographer, took about 14,000 slides of everyday life, mostly in color. After his death in 1972, his family donated the slides to Indiana University, which digitized the collection and put it online. Key in what you’re looking for–buildings, automobiles, people, whatever–and you can study photos taken from 1939 to 1969. Then you can make your people, buildings, or cars look like they did during the time period you’re after. If you like a particular city, you may even be able to find pictures of that city in the collection.
I love driving through the older parts of St. Louis and imagining what the city looked like in the past, but sometimes it’s not easy to imagine what’s behind the boarded-up windows, and what the streets and sidewalks would look like with people milling around. Seeing the Cushman photos makes it easier to imagine what the buildings that survive today looked like in their glory days.