Just in the nick of time, on a sunny Friday afternoon, on the last day of May, we finished the last touches on our newest exhibit in the 5th floor gallery foyer.
“Benjamin A. Gifford: Chronicler of Oregon’s Natural Beauty” celebrates the works of Benjamin Gifford, one of Oregon’s most talented and prolific photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Full of artifacts and fabulous photos, this is an exhibit sure to please!
From the time he opened his first studio in Portland in 1891 until he retired from photography in August 1919, Gifford took more than 10,000 photographs of Oregon landscapes – and likely took thousands of studio portraits as well. In addition to his picture taking talent, he was also a pioneer in the use of photographic technology and was widely published.
This exhibit includes some well-known photographs, such as the iconic “Sunset on the Columbia,” but the focus is on items that very few – beyond Gifford himself – have ever seen. Drawn from the more than 600 glass negatives the Gifford Family retained when the bulk of Benjamin Gifford’s work was sold to Sawyer’s Scenic Photos, these items show his range and skill, but also reveal a gift for capturing a kind of distinctive beauty in the people and places he photographed.
The Sawyer’s Scenic Photos are now part of the Oregon History Society’s collection, but in 1986 Gifford’s grandson Ben L. and his wife Beth donated the 600 glass negatives retained by the family to OSU’s Horner Museum. That donation was accompanied by an extensive collection of photographs taken by Gifford’s son Ralph, his wife Wanda, and Ben L. After the museum closed in 1995, the Gifford Collection was transferred to the University Archives, now a component of the OSU Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives Research Center.
The OSU Libraries recently scanned the glass negatives, revealing an astonishing collection of scenic views, studio portraits, and images of Gifford Family members. We are happy to share a selection of those images with you.
The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the entrance foyer of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center on the 5th floor of the Valley Library. The exhibit runs from June 3rd through September 30th — you can also see exhibit photos the Flickr set if you can’t make it.
Let this exhibit take you on a trip through our beautiful state!