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Jan. 11, 2016
Northwest Missouri State University students put their research, photography and exhibit-building skills to practice and developed a fascinating series of displays that combine scenes of Maryville’s past with the same scenes as they appear today.
The students in Assistant Professor of History Dr. Elyssa Ford’s public history course last fall began their assignment with nothing but a historic photo of a location on the Northwest campus or in Maryville. Each student’s task was to identify the location in their photo and then take a new photo from the exact angle as the original.
This re-photographed image by Northwest student Elizabeth Schneider shows changes in the landscape at Seventh and Mulberry streets.
The process, called repeat photography or re-photography, culminated with the students overlaying their new image on the historic image to create a photo illustration depicting the changes. The results also show how little some locations have changed over time.
The series of photos is on display at Northwest in the B.D. Owens Library, Valk Center and the J.W. Jones Student Union.
“It was a lot of fun for them to see what Maryville and Northwest used to look like,” Ford said. “They really had to get out there and explore in order to find where their original photograph was taken and learn about what was there, what changed and why. A lot of times we think we know about a place just because we live there and have seen the buildings, but we don’t always think about what was there before and why it might have changed.”
The photos include A&G Restaurant on a Main Street block once lined with busy shops. The building now known for The Palms once was Banner Bottling Works, but the exterior of the structure housing the two business has hardly changed. Additionally, a stretch of Fourth Street in downtown Maryville is almost unrecognizable from the way it appeared during the early 1900s.
On campus, a photo shows a parking lot in the place of grassy fields and railroad cars east of where Roberta Hall now stands along Seventh Street. In a photo of Wells Hall’s second floor, the card catalogs are gone from the old library building, but the staircase and shape of the floor are largely unchanged.
Determining the location of the original photos was the toughest challenge many of the students faced. Students learned the value of accessing resources at local libraries and museums and talking with multiple local historians to verify information.
That was the case for Hannah Mahnken, a senior history major from Schleswig, Iowa. She received a photograph of the intersection at East Fourth and Market streets.
“I knew it was on the square, but many of the buildings on the square have burned down over time,” Mahnken said. “The photos of then and now look almost nothing alike.”
Taking new photos at the exact same angle also presented challenges. Mahnken had to take her new photo during an early morning hour to avoid disrupting traffic. The historic photo Mahnken received and the new photo she captured are pictured below.
Michelle Estes, a junior middle school math and social science education major from Parkville, Missouri, received a photo of the second floor of Wells Hall, which served as Northwest’s library from 1939 until the B.D. Owens Library opened in 1983. Today, Wells Hall is the home of the School of Communication and Mass Media.
“The photos are supposed to be identical in location and angle, but the place the original photo was taken from is now a water fountain,” Estes said. “I had to stand up on a chair and stretch over the water fountain to get a better angle. Also, the camera I was using didn’t have the same lens as the camera they used back then, so it looked a little different.”
Students studying an array of majors comprised the course and plan to apply skills they learned in the education and museum fields.
“This was a different kind of class because we had a mix of students – social science ed, middle school ed, history majors, history minors and public history students – but this project allowed all of them to get some public history experience and learn more about the place where they have been living for the past couple of years,” Ford said.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468