The Bettmann Archive, founded in New York in 1936 by Otto Bettmann, a refugee from Nazi Germany, contained 15,000 images by 1938. Bettmann later characterized this period of time as "the beginning of the visual age." By 1980, the year before Bettmann sold the archive to the Kraus-Thomson Organization, the archive contained 2,000,000 images, carefully selected for their historical value, mainly under the five categories of world events, personalities, lifestyles, advertising art, and art and illustrations.
In 1984 the Kraus-Thomson Organization acquired the extensive United Press International (UPI) collection, containing millions of worldwide news and lifestyle photographs taken by photographers working for United Press International, International News Photos, Acme Newspictures, and Pacific and Atlantic.
In 1995 Corbis, a company controlled by Bill Gates, bought the Bettmann Archive.
"Beginning in 1997, Corbis spent five years selecting images of maximum historical value and saleability for digitization. More than 1.3 million images (26% of the collection) have been edited and 225,000 have been digitized. Because of this effort, more images from the Bettmann Archive are available now than ever before.
"In 2002, the Archive was moved to a state-of-the-art, sub-zero film preservation facility in western Pennsylvania. The 10,000-square-foot underground storage facility is environmentally-controlled, with specific conditions (minus -20°C, relative humidity of 35%) calculated to preserve prints, color transparencies, negatives, photographs, enclosures, and indexing systems" (http://www.corbis.com/BettMann100/Archive/Preservation.asp, accessed 01-17-2010).