PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Juneau-Douglas City Museum buys photographic collection
In May, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum was approached by a representative of collector R.D. Schmitz, who was in possession of a collection of photographs of Southeast Alaska.

This collection, assembled in 1885, consists of 52 photographs of the Inside Passage including Metlakatla, Kassan, Wrangell, Juneau, Glacier Bay, and Sitka.

"It was an extremely exciting moment when Addison, JDCM Curator of Collections & Exhibits, showed me the copies he had made of these photos," said Director Jane Lindsey.

"It is not often that we see images of Juneau as a camp town on the verge of creating mining history. This excitement was eclipsed by the price of the collection which for the Museum was prohibitive. With a yearly acquisition budget of $3000, it is difficult for us to acquire rare objects, rather we rely mainly on donations."

Initially the Museum was forced to look for an alternative home for the collection because of its price tag.

Additionally, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum normally approaches acquisitions like this cautiously, because the collection itself includes material from all over Southeast Alaska.

However, because of the historical importance of these photos, the decision was made to pursue acquisition of the album. Then local historian and friend of the museum, Jim Geraghty, stepped forward to help coordinate donors for the project.

"I've known about this expedition for many years and have always thought it would be nice to have copies of the photos. Now we have the opportunity to have original photos from that expedition and it is very exciting," said Geraghty, in reference to this collection.

In July, the Museum partnered with the Gastineau Channel Historical Society to purchase the photographs and put them into the City Museum's permanent collection. In addition to the GCHS, eight other donors contributed to the acquisition.

In total, just over $10,000 was raised toward the final purchase of the collection.

The Museum is very grateful to all the donors who made this purchase possible, including: Jim Geraghty, The Gastineau Channel Historical Society, Mike Blackwell, Mike Grummet, Sunrise Fisheries, Robert Garrison, James and Mary Lou King, Maritime Hydraulics, and Mark Whitman.

The photographs were taken by J.C. Haines in the first half of the 1880s. Haines used a dry plate camera, a technique that was developed in 1871 by Dr. Richard Leach Maddox.

The key to this process is the addition of gelatin to the wet plate process. This addition made photographic plates much more stable and therefore much more transportable.

These photographs may be related to a trip made by the Oliver family to Alaska during the 1880s.

The Oliver Family Collection is currently at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley. An initiative is now underway to determine if the photos date from 1885, when the album was assembled, or earlier.

This collection is available for public viewing with the Curator of Collections by appointment only. The museum also plans to make these photos available online in the near future.

A presentation by Jim Geraghty is scheduled for October 6th at 10 a.m. as part of the Museum's new Coffee & Collections Series starting this fall. This series is co-sponsored by Heritage Coffee Co.

The museum is currently accepting donations to help replenish the Juneau Museum Acquisitions Fund. Please contact the museum at 907-586-3572 for further information about donating or upcoming events.