by Dan McClelland
In the words of Tupper Arts volunteer Ed Donnelly, the new arts and cultural organization “has been given a valuable resource that has significant historical significance” to this community, the tri-lakes region and the Adirondack Park.
At the heart of that gift is the vast photographic collection of the late Free Press photographer Kathleen Bigrow and its caretaker, Jim Lanthier. The project is called “the Kathleen Bigrow Film Conservation Project.”
Continues Mr. Donnelly, “the acquisition of the photographic collection from Jim Lanthier provides Tupper Arts with the unique opportunity to protect, archive, catalog and disseminate the images” taken by the well known local photographer over five decades.
The collection contains thousands of photos and negatives taken by Kathleen and other earlier photographers here, that were collected by Lanthier in recent years.
“We literally now have in our possession a snapshot in time of a bygone era,” Donnelly recently wrote about the unfolding project.
To make all this possible Jim Lanthier has donated a very modern computer system involving a sophisticated and expensive negative scanner and printer to accomplish the permanent preservation of the collection.
He has created with new paint and remodeling a new work station in the back room of the new gallery and arts headquarters on Park Street.
The local photographer who is seen at most local events will be working with local high school students in the months and years ahead who will be taught how to create digital images from the sometimes very old film negatives.
According to Lanthier during a recent tour of his new studio, all of Kathleen's negatives and many of the even older negatives he's collected over the years, some from the Moody estate, will be digitized, stored and preserved on multiple external hard drives.
Once scanned and digitized the original negatives will be placed in sleeves or envelopes of non-acid materials and placed in boxes especially designed for archiving.
Extensive tables of contents will be created for each box, as part of the cataloguing.
Once high school students learn the skills of scanning, Lanthier also figures he'll buy a sophisticated printer where they will be able to make images of the old files. “I'm going to give them everything they need to learn about local history,” he explained.
Phase 2 of the project involves moving the folders of scanned images from the main computer to back up hard drives. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software will be used to create a searchable image database.
Through the scanning, cataloging, archiving and all, there are seven phases to the project.
Working with Lanthier and Tupper Arts leaders is art teacher Shannon Kavanagh and her digital arts students.
“It will preserve Kathleen's photos forever, and at the same time the local high school kids will learn about their history because they will be working with it.”
Another benefit for them is learning to use the various hardware pieces in the new system.
The sophisticated scanner can scan negatives of all sizes, from 8.5 by 11 inches down.
During her entire five decades in the business Kathleen used studio-type cameras. The first ones were top view and later ones were back view. In the early days her negatives were the very large four inch by five inch film, with presented a dramatic depth of field where images up close and in the distance were all in focus. She later moved to 2.25 by 2.25 inch film, but never to 35mm.
Jim's new scanner comes with various pieces to accommodate negatives of all sizes.
He hopes the students will come down to the Tupper Arts studio for their regular classes and even after-school.
“This may give them an edge with some of this technology” that will prove valuable to them in their future careers, he noted.
Lanthier thinks the collection could eventually generate revenues for the new arts center. “We could probably create post cards to sell like the paintings that hang in the new gallery!”
Once he's finished painting the back room, he hopes to erect a wall of old photographs there for visitors to view and enjoy. “It could be a rotating display.”
Lanthier, an excellent carpenter who specializes in Adirondack furniture and who has made pieces for many top lodging facilities in the area, also fashioned a new and polished work table for the studio.
“As students are doing their thing here, I'll be working on my other projects here, some involving his vast collection of Kathleen's actual print photos.
According to Donnelly, it is estimated there could be 500,000 negatives to be scanned.