The Arts on the Coasts annual fall show at the Richmond Hill Historical Society and Museum has become an annual tradition.
But there’s an added dimension to this year’s show — “Past and Present,,,,Flora, Fauna, and Faces of Bryan” — as the historical society and artists look to work with a community outreach group in the effort to preserve the history of Richmond Hill and Bryan Neck.
The result is an event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday that will feature the new and original work of more than a dozen local artists while also including tables full of archive photos documenting life in the local African-American community in times past.
The public is encouraged to come out to help put names with faces as organizers try to gather as much information about the photographs as possible.
“A lot of the photographs were taken back during the Henry Ford era, and a few are prior to that,” said Sarah Volker, an artist who is involved in Arts on the Coast and is president of the historical society. “We’ve got a lot of pictures, but we don’t have a lot of names to go with them.”
The outreach group Unity in the Community has been working on the project for a while, member Ursula Lee said in an email. So has the museum, she added.
“We feel adding the names to the people in the photographs will be of great interest to the family members of those who are no longer with us,” wrote Lee, who is the city clerk of Richmond Hill. “The pictures will tell a story of their culture to their grand’s and great-grand’s and other relatives who may not otherwise ever know this part of their history. People just don’t seem to talk about the past like they used to.”
Lee’s mother, Rosa Smith Grant, is from Bryan County and so is her grandmother. Lee’s family can trace its Bryan County roots back to the 1920s, Lee said.
Sorting through photos
Some of the photos show African-American school children, others are of adults in informal settings. There are dozens of group and candid shots of black and white people with no identifying information other than perhaps the date and time and a general description of what is taking place in the photo.
Though details may be scarce, Volker said Ford’s time in Richmond Hill was heavily documented by photographers.
“They seemed to be taking photographs constantly when he was here,” she said. “We also have photographs people have dropped off. In that regard, we really are like an attic for the community.”
Helping identify faces from Richmond Hill’s past is important, Volker said, as the group looks to one day making its archives accessible online.
Read more in the Sept. 18 edition of the News.