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.
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.