Glass Negatives project a window into the past

PLATTSBURGH - Descendants of residents past can get a glimpse into their local roots and heritage, thanks to the Glass Negative project, an on-line collection of more than 1,000 profiles of local townspeople, circa 1897-1920.

"We have a collection of over 17,000 glass negatives," said Carol Blakeslee-Collin, director/curator of the Clinton County Historical Museum, which heads up the on-line project. "From those, [Roger Black] has been able to identify about 1,000."

Black, Webmaster for the Press-Republican, had the task of sifting through the thousands of glass negatives, and posting them on-line, said Blakeslee-Collin. He used local maps from the time to identify people.

"We have some maps from 1859 where every resident is listed," Blakeslee-Collin.

Portraits were taken at the Brush Studio, a local portrait studio that donated the negatives to the museum when it closed almost a century ago.

"They were printed on glass, so they're very delicate," Blakeslee-Collin said. "But, you can go on-line and see the portraits."

"You can see the resemblance coming through the ages," said museum docent Julie Dowd.

Dowd said she thought there would be quite a few familiar faces in the portraits, especially for the homegrown locals in the area.

"It's all people within the area; people from outside Clinton County probably won't [find anybody]," Dowd said.

Blakeslee-Collin said the history behind Plattsburgh makes it a "grounded place," as many local families have settled here for decades, even centuries.

"I think it's wonderful," Dowd said. "These pictures are absolutely gorgeous."

The Glass Negatives project may be accessed on-line at www.clintoncountyhistorical.org. The site features names for people in both scanned and unscanned portraits. Those lucky enough to find a familiar face are able to order copies of the portraits.

For more information, contact Blakeslee-Collin at the museum Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by calling 561-0340.

Michael O'Keefe is an intern with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

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