Carelton Watkins Photo Album

What is it? This one-of-a-kind leather-bound album contains 35 mammoth prints of photographs of the Columbia River gorge taken by legendary photographer Carleton Watkins in 1867. The album was presented by the Oregon Steam Navigation Co. to railroad magnate Jay Cooke in 1872. The Oregon State Library acquired the album for $4.89 in 1953.

Watkins album cover pre

The cover of the Carelton Watkins commemorative album prior to conservation in the mid-2000s.

Watkins album cover post

Carelton Watkins photo album cover after conservation treatment in the mid-2000s.

Why is it important? The album contains the first large-scale photographs ever taken of the Columbia River gorge.






What are the challenges in preserving the album? In addition to its age, the album is made from multiple materials: leather, multiple kinds of paper, and chemicals used to make the photographic images.

Prior to collaborative restoration work in the 2000s by the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon State Library, the binding of the album was in poor condition, with the covers detached from the spine. Some of the paper also was torn. The photographs were generally in good condition.

Watkins album mending text

In order for mending of some of the text pages, a set of blocks was used to support the binding of the album.

Watkins album reinforcing hinges

      The internal hinges holding the book together were strengthened.


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