The Buffalo Bill Historical Center has announced a new photography exhibit entitled “Yellowstone Discovered.”
Beginning March 21, the Cody, Wyoming-based museum and research library will exhibit a selection of nineteenth-century Albertype photographs of Yellowstone National Park, in honor of the National Park Service’s centennial. The images are on loan from Dr. Robert Enteen, who originally rediscovered these previously lost photographs.
According to a BBHC press release, these “Albertypes” (similar to the William Henry Jackson photo shown above) were originally intended to bring Yellowstone to a wide audience, shortly after it was established in 1872:
Using a process dubbed Albertypes, Edward Bierstadt, brother of the renowned western artist Albert Bierstadt, created superb images in his studio from photos captured by photographer William Henry Jackson who was part of the 1871 “U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories” led by F. V. Hayden. This method was a means to mass-produce the prints for the American public, and in Hayden’s plan, would promote the Park’s unique attractions.
According to Dr. Matthew Hermes, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson University in South Carolina, “The Jackson Albertypes, had they been used as originally intended, would have been the first effort to promote Yellowstone by photographs. We like to think they would have been broadly popular, the first ‘coffee table’ book perhaps.”
Bierstadt had several volumes of the Jackson Albertypes in production at his New York studio in 1875. However, a fire at the studio destroyed the Jackson/Bierstadt Albertypes, along with Jackson’s glass plate negatives and contact prints. As a result, the planned survey volume that focused on Yellowstone was never published, and the handful of Albertype sets that survived the fire—including the newly discovered album of 76 Albertypes, the most complete set known—are extremely rare.
Enteen, a collector of rare, early photographs, contacted Hermes when he discovered the Albertype collection; in turn, Hermes introduced him to Mary Robinson, House Director of the Center’s McCracken Research Library. “This is such an extraordinary group of images that Dr. Enteen has loaned the Center,” Robinson observes, “and how fortuitous that Dr. Enteen and Dr. Hermes brought it to our attention. We are excited to share it with our visitors.”
“Finding this rare and historically significant collection of Albertypes was enormously exciting for me,” Enteen explains, “and I am especially gratified by the eagerness of the staff at the Center of the West to feature them as part of the centennial celebrations…”
Yellowstone Discovered will run until August 14, just a week-and-a-half before the official NPS anniversary August 25. There will be a formal opening June 1.