Back to Homepage of Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma

About the Virtual Album.

Front cover of album.During his lifetime, Horace Kephart made changes to his photograph album. Similar to his research journals, the album evolved with his interests and experiences. Many captions have been erased and rewritten. This may reflect a reorganization of photographs or updated phrases to describe them. Other pages contain bits of former paper corners and different caption placement, suggesting that some level of rearranging took place. Kephart also likely began the work of preserving the album. The binding was carefully replaced relatively early, and Kephart developed the expertise to make such repairs as a librarian.

Kephart maintained a "diary" when he first came to western North Carolina. While this diary was not included in the collection, its index is part of Kephart's journals. Matching this index to the first pages of the album shows a purposeful selection of subjects in support of a planned book. Many of these appear in Kephart's later writings. In contrast, many photographs have no accompanying information, particularly toward the end of the album. These may come from various travels, as many do show an environment not typical of western North Carolina. It is unclear when these photographs were taken and when they were added to the album. The Kephart Collection also contains numerous photographs not connected to the album.

The virtual album presented here offers an idea of how the physical album once appeared. These images do not reflect the way the album currently appears. Most significantly, the majority of the photographs were removed from the album due to the high acid content of the album pages. Several photographs and a number of clippings were attached with adhesive bonds that could not be broken. These remain in the album. The majority of these are clippings of plates from "Senate Document 84." This refers to the following publication: U.S. Department of Agriculture. "A Report of the Secretary of Agriculture in Relation to the Forests, Rivers, and Mountains of the Southern Appalachian Region." Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902. Horace Kephart's personal copy of this report is available at Hunter Library Special Collections. Currently, the only source information for other clippings comes from Kephart's album notations. Kephart's captions also remain in the album. The pages are currently interleaved with acid free pages to minimize the effect of the acid content on these remaining photographs. The current digital project provides an excellent opportunity to create the appearance of the album without subjecting the photographs to the damaging chemical content of the paper. This technology based solution also minimizes handling of the original album and photographs, as well as restoring important contextual information.

The separation of the photographs from the album is further complicated by the processing history of the Kephart collection. It moved between Western Carolina University and the National Park Service and has undergone numerous phases of processing as a result. In addition, there are inconsistencies within the album content organization that are difficult to reconcile. For the most part, photographs were marked in pencil on the back with the album page number and the location on the page. Some have only the page number. Some were loose at the time of processing and do not have a page number indicated. At this point there are also several photographs missing from the set of album photographs. Some have become intermingled with the loose photographs of the Kephart collection. Loose photographs that match captions have been added into the virtual album. These do contribute to the overall look of the album. However, many subjects have multiple shots that are similar, so this placement may not be exactly correct. Likewise, photographs that do not have the original location on the page were matched to captions and may be incorrect.

It appears that at the time of his death, Kephart may not have been in possession of many of the photographs. Some captions indicate the missing photograph is one that matches a published photograph. It may be that Kephart sent these originals to the publisher, and they were never returned. In these cases, the photograph from the published work has been substituted into the virtual album. Another issue affecting the presentation of the album is the presence of some captions containing personal information about specific individuals that cannot be verified. These captions have been digitally blurred out of the virtual album due to concerns about privacy and accuracy. The virtual album contains editorial notes denoting when a caption has been removed, photographs are apparently missing, or published photographs have been added.

Between inexact photo developing techniques and fading over time, many of the photographs are nearly impossible to view. Minimal digital photo editing has been added to the majority of online images to enhance details. A master image with no alterations has been preserved for each photograph as a 600dpi .tiff file. Likewise, each page was scanned in two sections at 600 dpi. These scans were merged together by hand to create each album page, a difficult and inexact process since the scanner created flair and variations in shading when scanning the album. The original photographs and album remain archived for future use. The majority of the photographs are included in an online database. Links for these photographs allow users to quickly access additional information about each photograph. The database also includes information about when this image was created. A corresponding handwritten log includes all changes made to each image. Researchers requiring specific editing information or original image files should contact Special Collections at Hunter Library with their requests.

Ultimately, the original album cannot be replaced as either an artifact or a research resource. However, that original album can never be physically restored. While the virtual album is similar to Kephart's original design, the damage of time and the efforts to minimize further damage prevent recreating the album exactly as it existed at the time of Kephart's death. Instead, this virtual album assumes Kephart's role in the evolutionary process of editing his personal volume. This current representation provides the essence of Kephart's vision, and a tribute to the people and places he photographed.

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