Couples courting, children laboring in a cotton field and a cave-side picnic are among the candid glimpses of early 20th century Arkansas offered in a new exhibition of historic images at the Massey, Crystal Bridges
temporary gallery space located in downtown Bentonville. Curated by Jo Blatti, an independent historian based in Batesville, Ark., Harry Millers Vision of Arkansas, 1900 1910 opens to the public August 21 and will be on display through October 25.
The exhibition includes 30 copy prints from original photographs as well as three vintage prints taken in north central Arkansas by Harry Lewis Miller (1870-1943), a North Dakota native who lived and worked in Batesville in the first decade of the 20th century. In addition to shooting studio portraits of folks in their Sunday best, Miller took his cumbersome 8 x 10 view camera, glass plates and tripod outdoors to record scenes of everyday life. Miller also documented landscapes and the automobiles, railroads, steamboats and dams that were transforming the region.
For Miller to be out there taking pictures of everyday folks, all races, all classes, was very unique. He was ahead of his time, said Ben Edwards, the collections, research and exhibitions coordinator at Crystal Bridges.
Little is known about Millers photographic training, but his compositions often include unexpected elements that invite close inspection: a horses head, for example, punctuates a photograph of men boating in downtown Batesville following the flood of 1902.
Also on display will be two albums of original prints assembled by the photographer to display his best work, postcards and souvenir books that included Millers photographs, and a vintage view camera and tripod similar to what Miller would have used.
These artifacts round out the story, Edwards said. The camera, in particular, helps you imagine what he took with him when he was shooting outdoors and exemplifies his dedication and passion for photography.
The Experience Art area in the front of the gallery invites visitors to engage in tactile exploration of the themes explored in the exhibition. Discovery drawers are filled with artifacts from Millers era provided by the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, including tools for carding cotton, cornhusk dolls and a childs straw boater and tiny button up leather boots.
The objects on display will be accompanied by a series of learning experiences developed by Crystal Bridges that involve guests in a variety of ways. Programs offered to the general public are free with no advance registration required. Highlights include ArtBuzz, public gallery talks best suited for adults and teens; Discover Art programs designed to engage children aged 5 12; and lunchtime movies exploring various aspects of photography.