Photo society sharing collection of historic Pictou photos at deCoste

Published on July 9, 2014
Pictou Historical Photo Society Coordinator Beth Henderson admires one of the 125 photos of historic Pictou available for viewing at the deCoste Centre. The photos will be at the centre for the duration of the summer. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

PICTOU – If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Beth Henderson of the Pictou Historical Photograph Society is hoping 125 photos of historic Pictou will leave viewers speechless.

Henderson, co-ordinator of the society, whose aim is to copy, preserve and share photos of Pictou then and now, is inviting all to see the display of photos at the deCoste Centre until the end of the summer.

She noted that the display is a perfect opportunity for all to see how Pictou once was through photos.

“Our goal in all this is to share the photos with the public,” she said. “Part of understanding who we are today is knowing where we came from.”

The photos in the atrium of the deCoste Centre give a glimpse into life back in the late 1800s, when coal-fired and sailing ships filled the harbour, local merchants supplied everything you needed and you wouldn’t be caught in town without a dress for the ladies and suits for the men.

The society’s website was set up and is hosted through the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. Many of the thousands of photos that the society has collected are available for viewing online.

Many of the most historic images in the collection are from William Munro, whose photos were collected by his contemporary Don MacIsaac, known as the keeper of Pictou’s photo history.

The society started in 2003 when six people interested in preserving the photographic history of the town started meeting. Henderson was one of those members.

“I had retired from Scotiabank and had a fresh pallet, open to new things,” she said. “Now, there’s around 20 in the group.”

The idea for the public display of photos stretches back to 2003, when the photos were viewed at the McCulloch Heritage Centre.

The display inspired at least one book from local author Monica Graham, including the photo-based Historic Town of Pictou. Some of the buildings from the 1800s are familiar and still standing.

“You can see the Scottish influence in architecture,” said Henderson. “They were frugal and used whatever materials were available.”

A photo of William Black Henderson, Henderson’s husband’s great-great-great-grandfather, is at the deCoste Centre. He was a master ship builder with 63 employees and contrary to the pro-protestant fervour in town, he was known to have ‘even hired Catholics.’

The annual sponsor of the gallery is the Pictou Academy Education Foundation.

The display follows on the heels of an initiative between Philip MacKenzie, Clyde Macdonald and Henderson that saw the distribution of 35 historical photos of Pictou from the society mounted on plaque board and distributed to local businesses.

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn