Historic Knox County on display in Union

Jan 21, 2013
Courtesy of: Penobscot Marine Museum Among the Eastern Illustrating images is this view of Union Common.

Union — Vose Library hosts the traveling photography exhibit “Knox County Through Eastern’s Eye,” produced by Penobscot Marine Museum, through April. Hours are Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon, at Vose Library, 392 Common Road.

The exhibit is drawn from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company collection, based on glass plate negatives shot from 1909 through the 1950s for use as photo postcards. The museum has more than 50,000 glass plate negatives of one-of-a-kind images of farms, industries, small businesses, stores, bridges, schools, and other “ordinary scenes.” The exhibit features 30 framed prints with captions, and a companion “virtual exhibit” on the museum's website features dozens more photos and captions.

Vose Library plans to host a presentation on the photographs in partnership with the Union Historical Society sometime in the spring. For more information, contact the library at 785-4733 or voselibrary.org.

Research for the exhibit was conducted by individuals and historical societies from virtually every Knox County community and coordinated by Liz Fitzsimmons, a historian who volunteers at the museum. The exhibit was funded by a grant from the Maine Community Foundation and generous sponsorship from Camden National Bank.

The Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company photos, taken a century ago, are aesthetically beautiful to view and are fascinating on many levels for the history and sense of place that they convey. The founder of the company sent his crews with their box cameras into tiny towns all over Maine and instructed them to ask local citizens what was important about their town. This is a unique feature of the Eastern collection, giving it great breadth and authenticity. The collection is a survey of what nearly every New England town looked like in the first of half the 20th century.

The Eastern collection is the largest single photographic collection in Maine, consisting of nearly 50,000 images of Maine and the rest of New England and upstate New York. Most of the photos are on glass-plate negatives. The museum is raising funds to acquire more of Eastern’s negatives, and have recently added a searchable database of the images online on their website. Photo prints are available from the museum, with proceeds from their sale going to expand the collection.

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