Henrico through the lens
By Tom Lappas, Citizen Editor 10/20/11
Photographs that span more than a century and help tell the stories of everyday life in Henrico County during that span are on display as part of a new exhibit at the Valentine Richmond History Center downtown.
"Into Focus: Henrico County through the Camera" – a collaborative exhibit with Henrico County featuring about 50 photographs of the county from as far back as 1899 – opened Oct. 13 and will continue through March. Photos in the exhibit document each of the county's five magisterial districts and are arranged by district, curator Meg Hughes said. The exhibit is designed to celebrate Henrico's 400th anniversary this year.
"It's kind of a 'Life in Henrico' exhibit," said Hughes, the center's director of archives and photographic services. "You get a lot of 'micro' stories of the county. We're hoping that people will get a renewed interest in the county, whether they are current residents there, great up there and moved away or are city residents. They'll get a sort of snapshot of the county through the decades."
Hughes reviewed hundreds of photos from the Valentine's own collection and from the county's collection to find the 50 or so that made the final cut. Some show architectural changes over time, historical county sites and changes to local infrastructure, while others show children at schools, community festivals and shoppers. Among the photos included: images of Bloemendal Farms (now Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden); Byrd Field (now Richmond International Airport); early Short Pump; and the Azalea Mall.
"It was really difficult [to choose the images] because there were a lot of great images, especially from the 20th century," Hughes said. "We were trying to find a diversity of landscape and geography, as well as of people doing things."
One from 1899 shows a group of men traveling by horse-drawn carriage along Three Chopt Road. Another shows the historic Brook Hill home in 1900. About 75 percent of the photos are from the Valentine's collection, while the others are on loan from the county.
During the process of sorting through images, Hughes (a Henrico native herself) said she was surprised to learn just how many photos of Henrico the Valentine had in its collection. Some were part of the Cook collection – the center's most significant collection, which was donated by the Cook family, photographers from South Carolina who ran a photo studio in Richmond in the early 20th century. Others came from the Richmond Times-Dispatch's collection and various other donated collections.
Once the exhibit closes next spring, it will travel to various sites throughout Henrico County, Hughes said, though no specific locations have been selected yet. She expects it to make appearances in schools and libraries.
The exhibit, located in the center's Stern Gallery, is open during the center's normal hours (Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.) and included with general admission to the center ($8 for adults, $7 for seniors, children and students with IDs).
A limited number of seats remain on the Valentine Richmond History Center's "Henrico's 400th Anniversary Bus Tour," scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $30 per person, and the tour will tell the story of Henrico's development from an early English settlement to its present-day success. The tour will begin and end at the Dabbs House Museum, 3820 Nine Mile Road. To reserve a spot, call 649-0711.
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