Friday, December 10, 2010

Porter Thayer Photography Collection Transformed into Digital Archive

Brattleboro ~ The Brooks Memorial Library, in conjunction with the University of Vermont Libraries’ Center for Digital Initiatives and with funding from the Windham Foundation, is undergoing a project to scan and catalog the almost 1,300 photographic images made by local early 20th century photographer Porter Thayer.

Porter Thayer was a photographer, born in Williamsville, Vermont, who took photographs around Windham County from 1903 – 1930. Thayer used a 5×7 and a 6.5 × 8.5 view camera and glass plate negatives to create his images. The detail available in his large format images creates an extraordinary glimpse into early 20th century life in Southeastern Vermont.

After a 1979 exhibit of Thayer photographs at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center entitled, Life in Old Time Vermont, the Arts Council of Windham County received several grants to preserve these photographs. The photographs were then briefly cataloged by staff at the Brooks Memorial Library and preserved to microfilm. Unfortunately, this media maintains little of the beauty and detail of the original images.

The vision and detail of Thayer’s work will now be easily accessible to the public, to students, and to scholars of Vermont history and of early 20th century photography will be able to view online free of charge.

The photographs are being scanned and re-cataloged by Jess Weitz, staff member at the Brooks Memorial Library, in batches of 50 images. The first 100 images will be available online in early December, with new images being added each week. The database of images can be accessed through the Center for Digital Initiatives (CDI) site at

The project staff hopes to gain feedback from individuals and local historical societies about their knowledge of the people and places in the images. On each images page, users can leave comments and contribute their knowledge.

Please join us for an afternoon talk about “The History of the Town Photographer” by local photographer Forrest Holzapfel, sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council, and a discussion of the Porter Thayer project to date, on January 15th at 3:00 PM in the Library’s meeting room.

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