Local history through a glass plate

Saturday March 30, 2013

JAMAICA -- Collections of photographs taken before the use of film will be on display at Jamaica Town Hall on April 1, at 7 p.m.

"Some of these pictures are photographs from places in Jamaica," said Charlie Marchant of the photo committee of the Historical Society of Windham County, who will be presenting prints from glass plate negatives taken in the early 1900s.

The photographs will be from two photographers, Everett Vaile, who lived in Londonderry, and Harry Chapman, who was from Windham.

When the photographs go on display, viewers can identify places or views that Marchant's committee was unable to identify. During the showing, Marchant will also explain his printing process.

"If people have plates, we have the capability to (make prints)," he said.

Marchant is part of a group that works closely with the Wardsboro History Group.

"We copy glass plate negatives," said Marchant. "We take them and make them into contact prints, so you can look at them without looking at the negatives."

He has been doing this for more than 20 years, he told the Reformer.

A friend of Marchant's, who is also part of the photograph committee, had a dark room, and Marchant knew someone who had a collection of glass plate negatives.

"He said, ‘Let's go to my dark room.' That started what we do every Wednesday night," said Marchant.

Since the 1990s, they have met on most Wednesday nights to make prints from glass plate negative collections that people bring them.

Marchant just finished printing a small Brattleboro collection and he is currently working on a Dummerston collection now.

He believes that people are interested in looking at these photographs because it shows what the region looked like back before people started using film.

The earliest photograph he has printed was taken in 1890. The latest was taken in 1930.

"We like looking at the old views of the towns and roads," Marchant said. "We like to take a picture of someone's house from 100 years ago and look at it today. In a lot of cases, (the houses) have been taken down or burnt down."

The Jamaica Historical Society has been collecting records of the town and its members continually add information or data. The president of the organization was a student of Marchant in high school.

"He's very involved with a lot of history in the area," said President of the Jamaica Historical Society Karen Ameden. "He gets (the photographs) out, so people can identify them and see them, too." For more information on the Jamaica Historical Society, visit Jamaicahf.info.


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