About the Collection
The Manahan-Phelps-McCulloch Collection is a collection of more than 250,000 images from a photographic studio in continuous operation in Hillsborough from the early 1860's. The studio originally opened under the ownership of Solon Newman, and has changed ownership many times over the years. Starting in 1899, William H. Manahan Jr. ran the studio for 54 years until Cyrus Phelps took over in 1953. In 2002, Donald McCulloch and Catherine Phelps McCulloch, the final proprietors, donated the collection to the Hillsborough Historical Society. The society has been preserving and documenting the collection ever since.
The collection can be characterized as a “collection of collections” since it contains significant material on a variety of subjects. Images in the collection include the people, the places, the events, the education, the work, the life styles; not only of the town of Hillsborough, but of a wider area including much of New Hampshire and elsewhere in New England. The collection encompasses the entire technical development of negative photography. It even includes early glass plate copies of daguerreotype photographs dating to previous decades.
It is a unique collection; there is no other collection in New Hampshire comparable in its time extent and collection breadth. In the words of Michael York, NH State Librarian: “… this unique historic photographic collection is of great value to the entire state of New Hampshire.” He continues: “This extensive collection, which includes the work of William H. Manahan, Jr., contains images of railroads, covered bridges and other photos of statewide historic significance, is a wonderful catalogue of what went on in a small New Hampshire town for 138 years.”
Gary Sampson, Chair of the Photography Department at the NH Institute of Art summarized it as “Overwhelming!” He quotes the internationally renowned photographer, the late Lotte Jacobi, as saying, “Each glass plate and piece of film is valuable and many will prove to be of statewide importance”.
Conservation and preservation have been enabled by a combination of grants, gifts, other income, and internal funding from the Society and most importantly, the thousands of hours of work by a very devoted group of volunteers.
The society remains the driving force in preserving Hillsborough’s history as the caretaker of not only the Manahan-Phelps-McCulloch Collection, but the President Franklin Pierce Homestead, the Hillsborough Heritage Museum, and primary sponsor of the Annual Living History Event each August.
Conservation and Preservation
We quickly realized that the Society had taken on an enormous responsibility and stewardship
1. How were we to responsibly conserve and preserve the collection?
2. How do we determine what we have in detail in the collection?
3. What information do we need to develop about the negatives in the collection?
4. How should we provide access to the collection?
This is how we went about it
A grant from the NH Charitable Foundation enabled us to fund a needs assessment by a professional photographic conservator. Monique Fischer, Photographic Conservator, at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, carried out the assessment and gave us a detailed report with recommendations for conservation and preservation.
Together with the needs assessment we developed our long-term four-fold action plan that would:
1. Properly conserve and preserve the collection.
2. Build a database for efficient access.
3. Digitally scan and store images for general and research access.
4. Develop a revenue stream to offset ongoing expense.
This is what we have accomplished
1. Several major grants and gifts together with Society funds have enabled purchase of computer equipment and software as well as archival storage material. These have also enabled us to create a facility to store negatives in temperature and humidity controlled environments.
2. We carried out training workshops for volunteer workers and developed the methodology for phases one and two of the action plan.
3. More than 90,000 negatives are entered into our computerized data base.
4. More than 34,000 negatives have been digitally scanned.
5. Almost all film negatives are stored at 0°F., the balance at 32°, all humidity controlled, at the storage facility. Glass plate negatives are stored in a separate room with controlled temperature and humidity.
Computer equipment and software
We have been very fortunate to receive very generous on-going gifts for equipment, software and supplies.
1. Our main computer is a very powerful desktop computer with associated memory and hard drives.
2. We have three other desktop computers and three printers.
3. We have a laptop computer and video projector with screen to make professional quality presentations. This system is available for other use by the society.
4. We have two scanners with both transmissive and reflective capability.
5. We continue to upgrade various software packages on our computers.
6. Computers and printers at our work area in the Fire House Museum are fully networked.
The “Digital Photo Album”.
The images of negatives that have scanned have now been incorporated into the negative database; creating a searchable “Digital Photo Album”.
1. This enables increasingly user-friendly access to the collection.
2. Enhanced searching capability with key words.
3. User-friendly user interface for unattended searching.
4. The album will be available at each networked computer.
5. Slide show capability for unattended “Kiosk” display.
Sharing the Collection and Increased Outreach
1. We answer increasing requests for images and information about the collection.
2. We provide prints for display at the Living History Event.
3. We make presentations and tours for groups and individuals.
4. We published a pictorial history book on Hillsborough using more than 200 images from the collection.
5. We created the collection portion of this web site using another 200 images from the collection.
Who We Are
The work of the collection is entirely carried out by volunteers. It is difficult to list all those who have helped in so many ways over the years; both from within the Society and the community.. Collectively, what we have accomplished is the result of many thousands hours of work. It includes also help from the Hillsborough Youth Services, the Hillsborough County Correctional Facility and even volunteers passing by.
This is a list of some of those who have been most heavily involved:
Gilman Shattuck, Curator
Thomas Talpey, Associate Curator
Ennio Gerini, Richard Harbour, Philip Harvey, Beatrice Jillette
Edwina Czajkowski in so many ways has made our collection what it is today. In the beginning, she identified resources to set us in the right direction, how to use our limited resources wisely, and was our cheerleader when we needed a boost. We could not have done it without her.
Virginia "Ginks" Leiby wrote the two successful grant applications that provided the initial funding for the project. She also led the wonderful training programs for our volunteers. She also lent us our first computer so that we could create and build our data base.
Loyall Allen, Sue Bermudez, Charlene Cobb, Jean Eaton, Barbara Gaskill, Fred Hill, Ginks Leiby, Dotti Penney, Nancy Shee, John Szehi, Karen Whitney,Theresa Zeludanz
David Feather, Arthur Jillette
They are greatly missed.