In the fall of 1970 Beulah Doane gifted to The Brewster Historical Society her son Donald Doane’s collection of over 400 turn-of-the-century photographic glass plate negatives. It remains a mystery how this collection, reported to be that of Caro A. Dugan, found its way into Donald Doane’s keeping, but it was to Brewster’s great good fortune that it did so. The Society did its best to pick up where Mr. Doane left off, protecting and preserving the “Caro A. Dugan Collection,” as it was called, using whatever tools were available to us at the time, but not until recent years has the technology been in place to allow us to do more than simply protect and preserve. For the first time, the digital age has allowed us to create electronic images from the glass plates and make them available to an audience worldwide.
The images in the Caro A. Dugan Collection are predominantly of Brewster, and as near as we can determine, date from 1887 to 1914. Unfortunately, only some of the images were tagged with a photographer’s name -- in many cases the photographer is listed as Caro A. Dugan; in others it is listed as Cornelius Chenery, a photographer who boarded with the Dugan family in their ancestral home, the Elijah Cobb house on Lower Road. Mr. Chenery’s will states: "I have destroyed the bulk of my negatives. A few have been retained . . . These I have asked Miss Dugan to dispose of as she desires after my death. Cape negatives have been sent to Brewster.” To complicate matters further, there appears to have been a student-teacher relationship (and according to family oral tradition, a romantic one as well) between the two photographers; Ms. Dugan has replicated some of Mr. Chenery’s photographs so that we occasionally possess two plates – one by each artist – of the same scene. Because proper artistic credit of some of these images has therefore been left in question, where no specific tag exists, we have decided to lay any best guesses aside and label those images “photographer unknown.”
Due to cost limitations, we have been forced to restrict this online exhibit to forty-five images; matted images of what you see here are available for sale online, and a selection is available in the museum gift shop, where the remaining images in the collection may be viewed via a digital viewer. As you view the images here and in the viewer please note that they appear in their “archival” state, that is, essentially unedited. When you order a print online or purchase one from the museum gift shop, any major flaws (cloudiness, or glass plate “burn,” speckles, etc.) will have been edited out by the talented Mr. Korn of Bob Korn Imaging.
Assistance with this project came from a number of places. Community support in the form of a Community Preservation Act grant enabled us to secure the funds to preserve and digitize these images; an Eddy Foundation grant allowed us to mount the online exhibit. Curator Suzanne Foster administered the ultimate kid-glove care to the collection to prepare it for preservation and cataloging. We could not have received better advice than that which we received from Tamsen Cornell, Director of Orleans Historical Society (www.orleanshistoricalsociety.org). Carol Appleton of Appleton Interiors provided invaluable assistance with image and series selection. Mr. Chenery’s relatives, Alys and Raymon Walker, provided a wealth of information on the photographer, and Brewster Ladies Library generously shared the diaries and other information in their possession among the Caro A. Dugan Papers. Bob Korn of Bob Korn Imaging (www.bobkornimaging.com) assisted with the digitization of the glass plates; not only was his knowledge and expertise outstanding, his generosity and patience with our endless questions and concerns was and continues to be a true comfort.
Finally, we at Brewster Historical Society are grateful to the photographers for leaving behind such stunning images, and to Donald and Beulah Doane for recognizing their importance. If it were not for their combined efforts, we might well have missed out on this opportunity to visit Brewster at the turn of the century, or perhaps more importantly, to glimpse how we might shape our future going into the next one. We think all who went before would be pleased and proud to see these images preserved and made accessible to the public at last. We know we are pleased and proud to bring this exhibit to you and hope that you find it edifying and enjoyable.
Sally Gunning, Exhibit Coordinator
Teresa Lamperti, Archivist