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Historic Washington County Photographs on Display at UMM Art Galleries

Added on: June 10, 2013

Main Street Machias circa 1920 (Penobscot Marine Museum's collection)MACHIAS, Maine – An exhibit of historic photographs of Washington County from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection is currently on display at the University of Maine at Machias Art Galleries. “Washington County Through Eastern’s Eye” 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 Washington County exhibit follows the highly successful Waldo and Knox County exhibits and will be on display in Machias through the end of July.

This is the fourth stop for the exhibit, which opened in Cherryfield in February. The exhibit features 33 framed prints with captions, and a companion “virtual exhibit” features dozens more photos and captions on the museum’s web site at

Research for the exhibit was conducted by PMM volunteer Liz Fitzsimmons who worked with individuals and historical societies from virtually every Washington County community. The exhibit was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and will be the first of four county exhibits the museum will produce.

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 the region, instructing 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 has recently added a searchable database on their web site, which includes nearly 30,000 Eastern Illustrating photographs. Photo prints are available from the museum, with proceeds from their sale going to expand the collection.

The UMM Art Galleries, located on the first floor of Powers Hall, are open Monday through Friday. For more information, contact Art Gallery Director Bernie Vinzani at 255-1279.


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