Then and Now: Re-Photographing Missoula is an installation of thirty-two vintage and current photographs of Missoula County. The photographs represent a time-tested method for recording and showing a place’s past and present through photography: re-photographing carefully selected historic images from the same location as those originals. It is a uniquely visual approach to local history that inspires close examination and inquiry.
The project, funded by the Missoula International Airport, the Montana Committee for the Humanities, and the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants, is a collaboration of the Historic Preservation Office, the K. Ross Toole Archives at The University of Montana-Missoula, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. Historic Preservation Officer Philip Maechling and local archivist Jodi Allison-Bunnell co-directed the project.
The project’s steering committee, which included Robert Brown of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Mark Fritch and Christopher Mullin of The University of Montana, Maechling, and Allison-Bunnell, selected images from the extensive photograph collections of the K. Ross Toole Archives that represented important elements of Missoula County’s history.
Three local photographers—Chris Autio, Kristi Hager, and Marcy James—then worked to locate the point from which each photograph was taken to re-take the image on large-format black-and-white film. This involved gaining access to tall buildings, climbing the water tower at Fort Missoula, and enlisting the help of locals to accurately determine the location of the vintage photographs.
The project also engaged Will Landon of Bellingham, Washington, to re-take a panoramic image from Waterworks Hill with a vintage Cirkut camera. This type of camera, popular in the early twentieth century, produces a long, narrow print with a 180-degree perspective. Landon, who took the image in October 2006, said that he thought he took the new image within ten feet of the original.
The negatives for all the contemporary images will become part of the collections of the K. Ross Toole Archives, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula, providing contemporary documentation of Missoula County.
A second exhibit of these thirty two images is part of the traveling exhibit program at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.
For more information, contact the Missoula Historic Preservation Office at 406-258-4657.