Images made from a collection of slides rescued from a Washington State Parks dumpster about 30 years ago will go on display Saturday at the State History Museum. The exhibit includes images taken by famed Northwest photographer Asahel Curtis.
The exhibit of 18 rare 1930s-era images is a joint effort of the State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Historical Society. The exhibit, “Washington State Parks Through the Lens of Asahel Curtis,” will run until Oct. 31.
The photographs, taken during the Great Depression, show early recreational use and development of the state’s park system. Some of the images show parks under construction by crews from federal work relief programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. Others show the parks being used, including a crowded Hood Canal beach.
The exhibit features some of Washington’s most popular state parks, including Deception Pass, Mount Spokane, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls, Millersylvania and Saltwater.
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“Some of the images were photographed by Asahel and others by contract photographers who were hired by the federal government to document the CCC,” said Alicia Woods, curator of collections for Washington State Parks.
The Curtis images used in the exhibit were taken at Twanoh, Lewis and Clark, and Gingko Petrified Forest state parks.
Curtis is among the region’s most well-known photographers. He spent more than 40 years documenting the rapid transformation of the state that occurred during his lifetime, said Kim Wirtz, the museum’s communications director. His images provide one of the most complete historic records in the early 1900s.
Other photographers in the exhibit include Dan Sheehan and Robert Brown, Woods said.
The images were created from a collection of lantern slides. Originally black-and-white photos, they were color-tinted by hand in a studio. The slides were recently digitized by Woods and State Parks volunteer Sherry Bush, and are now part of the State Park’s Collections Program.
The slides were discovered in the 1980s by Richard Clifton in a box tossed in the trash. Clifton, a former chief of interpretive services, was famous — and infamous — for going into parks looking in the trash for historic items, Woods said.
“Someone probably thought this collection wasn’t being used any more, and threw it out,” Woods said. “But it’s probably more meaningful than it has ever been.”
The photos will be displayed in the museum’s community gallery, attached to the store. It is available to groups that do not have their own display space and want to display works of historical importance to Washington, Wirtz said.
“This is a way we can share with the museum in telling Washington’s stories and make it available to a larger audience that may not have had access to it had it been at an individual park,” Woods said.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
If you go
State Parks Photo Exhibit
Where: Washington State History Museum’s Community Gallery, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma.
When: The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. On the third Thursday of every month, the museum is open until 8 p.m. with free admission from 2-8 p.m.
Admission: There is no charge to enter the community gallery. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $8 for students, seniors and military, and free for children 5 and younger and members.
Information: 888-238-4373, washingtonhistory.org.