KCC partners with Kingman Museum for archival photography exhibit

An archival image of hunters posing for a group photo. Part of the Kingman Museum photo archives on display at KCC through the end of 2016.

A unique photography exhibit highlighting turn of the 20th century images from the Kingman Museum archives will be on display starting next week at Kellogg Community College.

The exhibit, titled “Kingman Museum: Photographs from the Archives,” will run from Nov. 14 through Jan. 27 at the Eleanor R. and Robert A. DeVries Gallery in KCC’s Davidson Visual and Performing Arts Center, on campus at 450 North Ave., Battle Creek. The exhibit is free and open to the public for viewing during regular gallery hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

An opening reception for the exhibit, also free and open to the public, will be held in the gallery from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17.

The exhibit includes prints of nearly three dozen archival images from the late 1800s through the early 1960s, many of them several feet in dimensions, including:

  • 12 large-scale transparencies up to 42 by 60 inches in size
  • 20 printed murals (digital and darkroom prints) up to 40 by 60 inches in size
  • Two 5- by 7-inch darkroom contact prints

Subjects range from studio portraits of hunters to pictures of people picnicking near their horse and buggy, from street scenes from Battle Creek and Coldwater to scenes of dancers in Hawaii and tourists visiting South American temples.

The project was made possible in part by a grant from the Battle Creek Community Foundation and involved more than a dozen photography students from KCC professor Ryan Flathau’s ART 295: Alternative Photographic Processes class scanning and printing the dozens of archival images for display.

Flathau, who is also the DeVries Gallery coordinator at KCC, said many of the images originate from magic lantern slides, which would have been used in slideshows for educational purposes from the 1800s through the 1950s. Magic lanterns are an early form of projector involving light cast through images on glass slides.

“Little is known about the subject or content of each image, inviting viewers to come to their own conclusions about what is happening,” Flathau said.

Flathau said the intent is for the viewer to enter the gallery and “be immersed in photographic history of regional, national and international turn of the 20th century culture, ultimately to recognize the importance of photography and Kingman Museum in preservation of this heritage.”

Josh Holderbaum, operations manager at Kingman Museum, said the project helped Kingman fulfill a real need in preserving their photographic archives, “one of the last frontiers of organization” for the museum. Unlike the rest of the museum’s collection, Holderbaum said, the photographic archives haven’t been cataloged, leaving much information about the museum’s earliest directors and their expeditions unexplored or difficult to access.

“We’re very lucky and fortunate to have a group at KCC so interested and dedicated in helping us preserve our photographic archives,” Holderbaum said. “The help we’re getting to digitize and preserve our photos will help us understand and appreciate even more what we have sitting back there, and what’s being done here will undoubtedly play a role in exhibits and displays on the museum’s side because anything more accessible to us will be easier for us to research, identify and display.”

For more information about this exhibit or other arts initiatives at KCC, contact the College’s Arts and Communications office at 269-965-4126.

About Kingman Museum

Kingman Museum began life in 1871 as the “museum room” for Battle Creek Public Schools. Today, Kingman Museum is a destination and resource for lifelong learning in natural history, the universe, world cultures and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). The museum includes a collection of nearly 20,000 artifacts ranging from animal specimens to cultural items and a Digistar 4 planetarium showing movies and night sky star talks every weekend.

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