February 28, 2020
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Walk down Main Street and Memory Lane

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Belfast.  We’ll bet many of you have wonderful memories of your home town Maine Street and you remember the stores and people from those towns with warm and fond memories.  Welcome back to the past! 

The University of Maine Hutchinson Center is pleased to host the Penobscot Marine Museum’s “Maine Street:  Selections from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collecting” this month.

Thursday evening, November 12th, Penobscot Marine Museum photo archivist Kevin Johnson will offer a road trip into the past using scanned images from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing glass plate image archive, which is now owned by the Searsport museum.  The Opening Reception begins at 6:30 pm following by a slideshow presentation and light refreshments.

The thousands of glass negatives produced by the Belfast-based Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company documented daily life in the first half of the 20th century but almost didn’t survive the first years of the 21st.

The Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company produced photo post cards between 1909 and 1947. The company was founded by R. Herman Cassens, whose stated dream was “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail — Maine to California,” with a particular focus on small towns and rural areas.

Johnson has been in the process of cleaning, scanning and cataloging these images for several years. After the negatives left the building in Belfast where they had been stored for years, they were owned by Down East magazine and then were donated to the Rockport Institute of Photographic Education, a nonprofit part of the Maine Photographic Workshops, where Johnson came into the picture. He has followed them to Penobscot Marine.

“I like to say I was donated along with the collection,” he said.  That collection was in serious jeopardy a few years ago. As MPW hovered on the precipice of financial collapse, cost cutting measures shut down the heat in Rockport’s Union Hall, where the glass negative archives were housed. Something set off the sprinkler system and it poured water for about eight hours before it was discovered, soaking the boxes that held the photo archives and creating a small glacier running down Main Street.

To date, the glass plate image archive’s database has about 30,000 images, of which some 10,000 have been scanned. A Web site is in the works to make it possible to look through the entire collection and to order prints, something Johnson hopes will help support the archive.

Johnson also is constantly on the look-out for glass negatives that have left the collection over the years.  “Chunks of them were legitimately sold off before Down East got it and I’m looking for those. I know of a number of the collectors,” said Johnson.

He is on the prowl for everything that left the collection. Cassens used to winter in Florida and took photos on his trips to and from, outside of the New England/upstate New York images that dominate the archive. Johnson has been in touch with a collector in Florida who has almost 10,000 Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company negatives.

For more information about the Collection or to order prints from Penobscot Marine Museum’s glass plate image archive, visit glassplateimages.com.

Thursday’s Opening Reception and Slideshow Presentation are free and open to the public, courtesy of the UMaine Hutchinson Center and its Arts Celebration Program.  For more information about the UMaine Hutchinson Center or Thursday’s program, contact the Hutchinson Center at 338-8000 or 800-753-9044, www.hutchinsoncenter.umaine.edu