The Brownell Library is hosting a local history event series next month to celebrate the unearthing of photos taken nearly 100 years ago.
The series, History at the Heart of the Village, is being organized by library trustees and staff and will take place across three events in June.
Library director Wendy Hysko said library staff sought to find old pictures of Brownell during the carpet renovations several years ago after they heard the building used to have wood floors.
Former director Penny Pillsbury stopped by one day and, hearing of their search, mentioned a box in the village vault that no one on staff knew about.
Indeed, there sat a box of 92-year-old photos depicting the dedication of the Brownell Library on July 20, 1926. Staff brought them to John’s Darkroom, where they were digitized, printed and framed in a project jointly funded by the Brownell Library Foundation, the library trustees and the Penny Pillsbury Retirement Fund.
The nine digital prints are now on display in the Kolvoord Community Room, where the event series kicks off June 1 at 6:30 p.m.
The next day, residents are invited to bring their own historical photos of the village and have them scanned. An assortment of those photos will then be uploaded into a database attached to the new library website, which is currently in development, and every participant will get free digital copies of their photographs even if they don’t want them to appear in the archive.
The series planners have also scheduled a story sharing time on the evening of June 13, where featured storyteller and longtime Essex Jct. resident Carl Houghton will drop some knowledge of his decades in the village. A roundtable discussion from other lifelong residents, young and old, will follow.
The old Brownell photos, which have been in storage for decades, will be on display throughout the month. Hysko said it’s amazing to see how the library has grown from a reading room into what it is today.
The photos have served a purpose beyond nostalgia, though: They helped ensure the chimney repointing project respected the historic nature of the building, Hysko said. She added she’s looking forward to seeing some of the old photos people bring in and tracking the village’s growth.
“We’re a repository of information, and knowing a lot of historians, there’s just so much work they do to uncover history,” she said. “If we could make it more readily available, there’s definite value in doing that.”
Plus, photographs immortalize the here and now; what’s common today may be tomorrow’s history. As proof, Hysko pointed across the street to TD Bank. That used to be Samuel Brownell’s house, she said.
“You can just value what the village used to look like and what it may look like in 30 years,” she said. “It could be entirely different.”