Saint Vincent Archabbey Archivist Father Brian Boosel, O.S.B., was an assistant in the archives several years ago when he asked what could be done to help preserve boxes and boxes of glass plate negatives which were in the archives. The negatives date from the latter part of the 19th century through the early 20th century. The collection, consisting of more than 600 images, ranges from portraits of monks to prep school and college athletes to buildings and architecture around campus and photos in the local community.
The negatives, being only a small part of the archives, were not in the best condition and most were not packaged in a way which would aid in their preservation. None of the glass plates was catalogued.
That changed in late 2003 and early 2004 when work began on the centennial celebration of the Archabbey Basilica, which involved production of a book of photographs featuring its construction and renovation. Saint Vincent College students in a public history class were recruited to help sort and search the negatives for those that related to the Basilica.
Subsequently, after that project’s completion, Jillian Gundy, another history major, was hired for a year and a half as an assistant to the archivist. She developed a cataloguing system, sorted them and wrote all of the initial descriptions of each plate. She obtained a small grant to provide the acid free envelopes they are now stored in, and began digitizing the images so that they will be more available to historians and researchers. After Jillian accepted a job with the National Archives, Saint Vincent graduate Laura Gerhart continued the process of digitization and worked with Father Brian and Father Warren Murrman, O.S.B., as well as many others, in an attempt to provide further detail on the images which appear in this book.
This book is the first in a series of photo books that will showcase different aspects of Saint Vincent history. Nearly all of the 100 images in this book are from the glass plate collection.
Some of the images from the delicate glass plate collection were in excellent condition, while others were in poor condition. All images were digitized using Adobe Photoshop® software on an Apple G4® computer and retouched to bring out the finest details of each image, and to eliminate the flaws caused by the passage of time.
Images include early buildings on campus, such as the Brewery, the original schoolhouse where Boniface Wimmer lived when he arrived in 1846, the boathouse, some early sports teams, Beatty train station, the first car at Saint Vincent and the Spirit of Saint Vincent airplane. Other local images include coke ovens, a wooden Kingston Dam, the Ligonier Valley Railroad at Loyalhanna Gorge, and an early Pittsburgh city street corner.
Saint Vincent is blessed with a dynamic history that showcases the strength and determination of an early group of Benedictine monks led by its founder Boniface Wimmer. This book brings that history to life by creating a photographic journey of Saint Vincent’s foundations in faith to its modern mission.
The book is available at www.stvincentstore.com