An exhibit of photos of life on Swans Island from 1890 to 1945 will be on display at the library there through September 15. PHOTO COURTESY OF SWANS ISLAND LIBRARY

Swans Island: Historic photos depict ‘boom time’

SWANS ISLAND — Life on Swans Island between 1890 and 1945 is illustrated in photographs on display at the island’s library through Sept. 15.

The exhibit, titled “Here is Home,” is part of the 2015 Maine Photo Project, an initiative organized by the Maine Curator’s Forum to highlight the state’s historic role as a magnet for photographers.

Of the 32 libraries, museums, historical societies, galleries and arts organizations around the state that are participating in the project, the Swans Island Library is the only one in Hancock County.

“The exhibit represents life in all three of our villages [Atlantic, Minturn and Swans Island] that were self-sustaining 100 years ago through categories such as schools, worship, community and industry,” said library director Candis Joyce.

The photo exhibit focuses on the last decade of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th because “that was really a boom time out here,” Joyce said.

“We had quarries that were shipping cobbles all over the world. We had several fish packing plants and a medicinal oil factory. There was a company that made work clothes that they called ‘the pants factory.’”

Joyce said all of the important trades of the day were represented, and each community on the island had several stores.

“We had a least three schools,” she said. “And the historical records indicate that at one point there could have been five or six schools on Swans Island.

“Maine’s offshore islands were where it was happening 100 to 150 years ago. We were in the shipping lanes. Everything went past us.”

For many reasons, that began to change after World War II.

The “Here is Home” exhibit includes 40 photographs from the library’s collection. Many more are on a digital loop for visitors to see.

“We have an extensive digital collection and a museum online,” Joyce said.

Along with the historic photos, the library has on display a photography kit, complete with developing materials, that was owned by a Swans Island teenager who, in the late 1800s, decided she wanted to learn how to take pictures.

The library, operated by the Swans Island Educational Society, also collects and preserves documents and artifacts of historical significance.

“The Maine Photo Project seemed to be an amazing opportunity for a small collecting institution to show the state what we have and what we do,” she said.

Miranda Batiste, a Swans Island resident and photographer, is curator for the library’s photo exhibit.

“We don’t have anything like the resources that some other institutions have,” she said. “It’s amazing when you think that we are part of this project with Bowdoin and Bates and Colby [colleges], all of which have big, beautiful endowments as well as great spaces.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

Latest posts by Dick Broom (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.