The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kean U. website boasts historic Plainfield photos



Home of Alexander Gilbert, early Plainfield mayor, at West 8th Street and Central Avenue.
While an apartment complex is now on the site, the home to the right is undergoing restoration.

A treasure trove of early Plainfield photographer Guillermo Thorn's pictures is being mounted by Kean University Library on its ContentDM website (see here).

Many thanks to Plainfield Public Library Director Joe Da Rold for the heads up.

Thorn (1837-1920) was an early photographic chronicler of Plainfield life and people, operating out of his home and studio on East Second Street with a long career that spanned the decades of Plainfield's explosive growth as a post-Civil War railroad suburb attracting a wealthy elite of Wall Street bankers and financiers and executives in some of America's largest corporations.

The Plainfield Public Library holds a sizeable collection of Thorn's images, some of which have been organized as part of its online survey of Plainfield in photographs from 1870 to 1970 (see online exhibit here).

Kean's images are from a collection of more than 300 Thorn items that came into the possession of Prof. Frank Esposito in the late 1980s and are now part of Kean's holdings. He and his colleague Donald Lokuta organized the material into both an exhibit mounted in 2005 and a book (published by Kean U. Press as Victorian New Jersey: Photographs of Guillermo Thorn and released on the 100th anniversary of Kean's founding) -- see more here.

Plainfield's own Jean Mattson, former president of the Historical Society of Plainfield, worked with Esposito and Lokuta to research much of the Plainfield material. Much background information on the photos was supplied by Mattson, who at the time was also on the faculty of Kean University.

To use the Kean collection website, go to its home page (here) and click on the BROWSE link which will take you to the two pages of items currently online. Clicking on any image will bring up a large version of that item, with the available background information.

Note that the CONTACT US link at the bottom of the page is not yet set up (you get a blank email). For more information regarding the collection or to supply background information on any of the images, contact the Kean University Librarian, Luis Rodriguez, at (908) 737-4646 or by email here.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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