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Awakening Jamaica

Photographs by Valentine and Sons, 1891

August 6, 2015 - November 1, 2015

In 1891, Jamaica’s economy was in the doldrums. In response, a group of Jamaican businessmen hired the studio of Valentine & Sons of Dundee, Scotland to create a photographic portrait of the island as a commercial and tourist paradise. Valentine & Sons, in business since 1851, was a prominent maker of landscape photographs and travel views.

The studio produced 116 large format photographs, displayed to great acclaim at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and distributed at the Fair in the book World’s Fair, Jamaica at Chicago, An Account Descriptive of the Colony of Jamaica. These photographs would effectively introduce the country of Jamaica to the rest of the world as a peaceful island filled with natural beauty.

The original large format glass plate negatives for the photographs were destroyed in 1961, but the Caribbean Photo Archive, a private New York collection owned by archivist Patrick Montgomery, has in its holdings many of the original albumen prints made from these negative. In 2011, the Archive started a project to restore the prints.

This exhibition features more than 50 of these prints. Visitors will learn about the creation and impact of the images, featuring urban and rural views of the island in the late 19th century. Also on display will be archival items related to the studio of Valentine & Sons and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

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