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Historic photos being prepped for debut

Thousands of early Sun Valley photos will be available publicly for first time next year


Photo courtesy The Community Library, Regional History Department, Ketchum, ID. Before (top) and after (bottom) shots of Sun Valley Resort show the results of photo restoration. This image is one of about 3,000 transparencies from the 1940s and 50s theCommunity Library is restoring following a grant from the Wattis-Dumke Foundation. The grant enabled the library to contract with a multi-media specialist to restore the images and buy a high-definition, high-resolution digital monitor for the project.

Thousands of photos of Sun Valley's early days are being reviewed and refreshed before they are unveiled to the public for the first time.

The regional history department of the Community Library in Ketchum has a trove of 3,000 historic photos taken by Union Pacific photographers in the 1940s and '50s. Sun Valley was founded by Union Pacific Railroad Chair Averell Harriman, whose company's trains would carry tourists to the destination resort.

The Kodachrome color transparencies depict life in the new mountain town. The photographers went from ski hill summits to cafeteria tables, documenting details for use in publicity work.

The library was awarded a grant from the Wattis-Dumke Foundation that enabled it to contract with a multi-media specialist to restore the images, as well as to buy a high-definition, high-resolution digital monitor, also called a display, to replace the old one. The display provides a clear picture, allowing for minute corrections.

"The resolution is so crisp you can see the details you're working on, and the color is so accurate," said Bellevue-based contractor Kathleen Cameron, who also is a photographer. "It's speeded up the process and gives me an accurate vision of what's there and the corrections that need to be made."

Cameron handles the transparencies wearing gloves, placing them in a film frame holder. The images are scanned and initial color corrections can be made.

She then makes further refinements on screen, inch by inch, one by one.

"I begin to fine-tune it," she said.

Vibrancy is restored to faded scenes, and color-bleed is rectified.

"It takes a very trained eye," said regional history librarian Sandra Hofferber, who wrote the grant application. "We can learn to do this but she already knows, so she can do it more efficiently than we can."

Cameron started working on the project in early October. She is nearly one-third through, though the images also have to be cataloged and uploaded to the online catalog.

The Idaho Community Foundation matched a portion of the grant. Library staff hope they can build on the grants to gain more funding for the project, which could be put toward tasks such as photo retouching.

As Cameron pores over each scene, she looks forward to the time the public will have access to the restored images.

"They're going to knock people's socks off," she said. "It's quite exciting."

Rebecca Meany:

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.