BROWNINGTON, VT – Sometimes we have to be in the right place at the right time, and that's what happened one day back in the 1970s when former Newport Daily Express Owner and Publisher Roger Cartee walked out of the Miss Newport Diner and ran into an old friend. That meeting led Cartee to obtain a collection of negatives and glass plates and stopped them from going to auction in New Hampshire.
Former Newport photographer Harry Richardson took most of the images in what is now known as the Richardson-Cartee Collection.
The Orleans County Historical Society has stored the images, about 8,800 of them, for Cartee for the last 15 years or so. Recently, Cartee and his wife Janet decided to donate the negatives and glass plates to the society. The first installment of the donation, about a third of the collection, took place at the Alexander Twilight House yesterday. The Cartees will donate a third of the collection for the next three years.
No matter what it is, each photo also tells a story. Cartee has spent hours sitting in his basement looking at the images and even came across one of his father working at H.P. Hood and Sons.
“It was kind of a shock to family members and people I knew,” said Cartee. “I've looked them (the photographs) over and over.”
Cartee credited Newport photographer Don Whipple who, along with his staff, digitized each image so multiple copies will be around forever.
Whipple also made large printed copies of some of the images.
“When he got involved with this, when he saw what I had, you could see his eyes light up,” Cartee said of Whipple. “It was like a kid in a candy store.”
Whipple, who attended the presentation, said it took him and his staff two months to digitize the images. Now, 500 more have turned up in storage.
“Everything there was important to somebody,” said Whipple of the collection.
“This is like gold to you folks and to the community,” Cartee told the board directors of the historical society. “This stuff could have been lost forever and never seen again.”
Cartee didn't recover all of the images from the Richardson collection. Some were thrown in the trash when the Richardson studio closed.
“This is a very small part of what was really there,” said Whipple, who called the collection a history through the eyes of a photographer who understood what the community valued visually.
Cartee knows of several people who went to the dump and sorted through images in hopes to save a few.
Most, if not all of the images, have great detail, Whipple. “One image can consume you,” he said. “You can look at it for hours.”
The negatives and glass plates will be stored in the society's new vault.