ProRodeo Hall of Fame completes Photograph Restoration Project
The ProRodeo Hall of Fame is proud to announce the completion of its Panoramic and Oversized Photograph Restoration Project. This project started in 2019 when the Hall received a Save America’s Treasures Grant from the National Parks Service administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The grant was to help with the humidifying, flattening, cleaning, repairing, and digitizing of 120 panoramic and oversized photographs that dated from 1912 to 1959. The Hall was awarded $95,500 in grant funds that had to be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Hall of Fame.
After an extension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hall and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts were able to complete the project this September. The three-year long project is now finished, and the Hall wishes to thank the many individuals, businesses, corporations, and rodeo committees that helped match the grant funds through their generous donations.
“It was customary back in those days to take a group photograph of everyone involved in the rodeo,” said Kent Sturman, Director of the Hall. “These groups include not only the contestants, but the producers, officials, clowns, personnel, workers, and in some cases, even the rodeo band and local Native American groups. As a result, when these images were printed, they were quite large and panoramic in nature. Some of the committees whose photos are in the collection, donated to this project”
Many of the photographs were taken in the arena with several on horseback while others were taken just as groups in front of places such as city hall or the local courthouse. Many of the Madison Square Garden group photographs were taken in the basement of that historic building.
All final paperwork, reports and budgets have been filed and the original photographs are being shipped back to the Hall from the lab in Philadelphia this week.
“We are so happy that this project is now complete, and the images will be forever preserved for future generations,” Sturman said. “Our fund-raising efforts were derailed almost a year with the pandemic, but we were granted an extension from the IMLS to raise the funds and complete the restoration of these incredibly historic photographs.”
The 120 photographs, which had not been thoroughly studied since their arrival at the Hall, received top treatment and are now available for viewing on the Hall of Fame’s digital database where they can be viewed and enjoyed by anyone.
To showcase the completed photographs, an exhibit in the Hall’s 101 Gallery opened on September 28th and will remain in the gallery until later in the spring of 2023. The exhibit features many of the restored images and items from collections that tie-in with the rodeos featured in the photographs. One of the images was enlarged to five feet wide to encourage visitors to identify the cowboys and cowgirls at the 1953 Madison Square Garden Rodeo.
Another wall of the exhibit showcases the process that the images went through at the conservation center during the humidification and digitization stages. Before and after images tell the story of how well the photographs were restored and repaired. Even the most damaged images look new again.
Still another wall showcases the changes in the Madison Square Garden contestants from 1923 to 1959. Visitors are encouraged to examine the photographs and note the changes and similarities in western wear styles of both the audiences and the rodeo participants.
“We encourage folks to visit the Hall and view this amazing exhibit,” Sturman said. “And if they are not able to visit in person, they can view the collection on our digital database. There will be a link on our website at prorodeohalloffame.com.”
The Hall of Fame is looking for volunteers who would like to help in identifying the cowboys and cowgirls in these photographs. Since most of the image’s date back to the first days of the Cowboys’ Turtle Association, many rodeo legends are pictured. Most often seen are Everett Bowman and Hugh Bennett, both Turtle Association officers. Casey Tibbs also makes an appearance in many of the images. To learn more about volunteering, please contact the Hall of Fame at 719-528-4764.