Visual images of a local area have a fascinating appeal to those who live in the area, especially if they have an interest in the history and nature of the area. This exhibit offers the viewer two very different ways of looking at Eastern Connecticut, including the University of Connecticut, through antique post cards and through contemporary aerial photographs. Both have historical value and visual appeal.
Long Ago...The period from the late 1800s through approximately 1920 was a "Golden Age" of postcards. Improved printing technologies, changes in the postal system, an increase in travel, and a sense of community all were factors that led to an explosion in the production and distribution of postcards. One major element of that process was the printing of thousands of postcards containing views of local communities, large and small, in the United States and elsewhere. The result was a visual documentation of communities during that period that is unrivalled in any other medium. Neglected for many years, but often saved as family treasures, these postcards have received increased attention in recent years, primarily by amateur local historians. Fortunately, some libraries and archives have now turned their attention to collecting postcards for their historical value.
One part of this exhibit consists of approximately 200 postcards of the University of Connecticut, Mansfield, Willimantic, and other parts of Eastern Connecticut. Many of the images are of buildings that no longer exist or of areas that have undergone substantial change. Others are of buildings or locations that still exist but have undergone such transformation that they may not be immediately recognizable. All provide a close-up representation of our surroundings from a time long ago. The postcards in the exhibit are loaned from the extensive collection of Francois J. Gamache of Willimantic, who has been collecting postcards of Eastern Connecticut for more than 25 years.
...and Far Away The advent of airplanes in the early twentieth century, along with improvements in photography, allowed images of a community to be created from very far away, permitting us to view our surroundings from a new and very different perspective.
The second part of this exhibit consists of large color photographs taken from the air by G. Leslie Sweetnam of Woodstock, who decided, shortly after becoming a pilot four years ago, that he wanted to share the aerial view for political, as well as aesthetic effect. His subjects range from the surprising patterns of local agriculture, to familiar communities including Mansfield, Willimantic, UConn, and Eagleville, shot from the unfamiliar, beautifying altitude of a thousand feet. These images depict Eastern Connecticut as it now exists. In time, these too will become another historical collection of images of the area at a given point in time. Although more recent and from a quite different perspective than the postcard images, they too help us to gain new insights into the area in which we live.
Babbidge Library, Stevens Gallery
Curators: Roger Crossgrove and Norman Stevens