Monday, June 28, 2010

Nassau County's Photo Archive Center at Old Bethpage Village Restoration

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
If you have attended the same church every Sunday for the last 20 years, you may have wondered, how did your church look 100 years ago; who would be your neighbor on the bench, whose more or less ample bottoms polished the pew on which you are sitting now, whose kids carved their initials in the soft wood, how were the members of the congregation dressed, what hats were they wearing, did they look prosperous? Answers to these and to many other questions are waiting quietly at the photo archives administered by the Nassau County's Photo Archive Center at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

There are researchers, family members delving into their family tree, book authors, historians, organizations celebrating anniversaries of their activies, whose inquiries constitute the bulk of requests for the many images in the archive.

Of the 250,000 images in the archive, 14,000 are catalogued in an electronic format for an easy retrieval. George William Fisher oversees the project from his office/lab at the Restoration. He is a walking font of information on the Long Island photographers, photo techniques, history and industry of Long Island (he is an avid collector of Long Island soda, beer, mineral water, and medicine bottles). He is perfectly suited for his job or rather passion also for another reason, he has years of experience digitizing and archiving data, from human resource files to county records.

One of the current projects at the center is cataloguing the collection of about 4,000 images by Mattie Edwards Hewitt, a landscape and architectural photographer, from Richard Averill Smith's bequest to Nassau County. Hewitt was a very talented photographer who captured numerous architectural treasures of Long Island. Since she published extensively during her lifetime, her photos of Long Island mansions and grounds brought many landscaping ideas to middle class and thus shaped many a neighborhood on the island.

Archives include works by other major Long Island photographers noted for their historical or artistic merit: Henry Otto Korten, John Drennan,William Pickering, Rachel and Lydia Hicks, George Dradford Brainard, and the already mentioned Richard Averill Smith.

Photo Archive Center is located at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage, NY 11804. Tours and visits, by appointment only, can be arranged by calling 516.572.8410.

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