Announcement: Anthracite Photographers

In the summer and fall 2018, I partnered with the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, PA, to co-curate an exhibit on mining photography.  My co-curators (AHM Director Bode Morin, and AHM Curator John Fielding) and I wanted to capture the ways in which photography has served to document, memorialize, and preserve Anthracite mining and mining culture, from the beginnings of the Anthracite industry in Northeast PA in the nineteenth century through today.

The resulting exhibit, Anthracite Photographers: Photographers of Anthracite, brought together the work of nine photographers who documented the Anthracite Region, including Lewis Hine, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Bernd and Hilla Becher, George M. Bretz, Watson Brunnell, William Herman Rau, George Harvan, John Horgan Jr., Scott Herring, local press photographs, and the photographers of the Federal Government’s HABS-HAER project.  We examined the collective contributions of these artists and practitioners, and the ways in which their work catalyzed social action, served industrial purposes, and memorialized NEPA’s post-industrial landscape.  The exhibit opened December 1, 2018, and featured a companion exhibition catalog.  The exhibit is scheduled to be on-view at the Anthracite Heritage Museum through 2024.

–Jennifer M. Black, Assistant Professor of History, Misericordia University



Misericordia University History major Sarah Sporko provided crucial support throughout the duration of the project, with funding from Misericordia’s SURF program for the summer months.  Sarah’s blog, reproduced below, chronicles the project’s completion through her internship in the fall of 2018.  For more information on Misericordia University’s public history opportunities, visit

AHM Internship – Week 14

Hello All! Last Saturday was a complete success. We had about sixty people come to the grand opening which far surpassed how many I thought were going to attend. This exhibit really does reach deep into the history of Northeastern Pennsylvania and I am so proud to be part of the team who created it. It is hard to believe that this is my final post for the semester. I cannot believe how time has flied since I started posting 14 weeks ago.

Now that the openings are finished and the work is done, I cannot help to feel a little bit sad as I am unsure of what to do next. This experience has been awe-inspiring and I have been able to do so much more work than what normally would have been assigned.

On my last day of my internship, I was able to go with the curator to Eckley Miners Village located in Weatherly, PA. This site is part of Anthracite Complex, which is made of four historical institutions, including Anthracite Heritage Museum. It was quite the trip as Eckley holds a significant amount of historical importance as the site traces the daily lives of miners. Most of the houses are original from the heyday of mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I hope that I can tie the museum field with legislative policy in the future as I have a strong interest in both. I hope everyone has a happy holidays and who knows, I may be posting again in the future.

AHM Internship – Week 13

Well this week was the week! The last days were spent in preparation with last minute details such as making sure each picture and case had label and that all of our tools were cleaned up so that way the space did not look messy. One of the things that I really enjoyed this week was that I made the layout to the photo contest photographs on my own. Once I made a mock up of what they should look like on the wall I then started to place them on the wall. Once it was finished, I loved the way it looked.

Then, later on at night was our grand opening for VIP Members. I would have to say that it was a success. I was hoping for about thirty people to show up but we ended up having fifty people! That was a huge success and even better, everyone there enjoyed the exhibit. That was the main concern of everyone as I learned in the past exhibits AHM has produced, there were always a few complaints. Now it is time to look to Saturday as that is the official public opening and since we did not do an RSVP to that event, we have no clue as to how many people will be coming.

AHM Internship – Week 12

So this week was a short week as Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Everything in the hall, besides the photo contest photographs, is set for our opening which is only 1 week away!! I cannot believe how time has flied since I was first put on this project in May. To see everything finally coming together is very exciting! This week, I hung the final portraits of girls working in the silk mills along with their labels before making a checklist of what we had and did not have in the exhibit. I attempted to mount some of the photo contest photographs but ran out of adhesive so that process is now a little behind. I then proceeded to make catalog each photograph and start a first draft of labels. Since this was a short week and I was on my own due to the holiday, I had to get a little creative on some aspects of the mounting because I could only do so much with little adhesive. However, I am happy to report that I did much better than last time, as I learned to utilize the edges which make cutting easier.

AHM Internship – Week 11

This was a very exciting week at Anthracite Heritage Museum as we finally started to put together the whole exhibit. As stated, this was exciting because of the months of preparations and work that was put into this exhibit and now we are finally seeing the the end result.


Throughout Tuesday, while most of photographs were being hung up, I was doing checks on the frames, making sure that each frame had at least two command hook strips.

After that, I assisted the curator, John, with hanging each photograph. We were able to do this easily with by using two wooden stands that were built to the height we wanted each photograph to hang on the wall. All we had to do was set each frame on the top of the stand, and hold it in place while we leveled it. Then we had to take the back of the command hook strips off, reposition the frame again, and attach it to the wall. This was a relatively easy process and it only took about two days to hang the frames. The next part that I did was attach the labels. I did this by using the level. I would place the level underneath the frame, then place the label underneath the level which would keep the label level while providing an appropriate amount of space between the frame and label. Next week, is the week to a first round of checks of what we need to make for the exhibit.

AHM Internship – Week 10

This week at Anthracite Heritage Museum, I began the technical work of putting together the whole exhibit. All photographs are in their frames and almost everything is ready to be put on the walls. This week, I learned how to make the wall labels for each of the photographs. This was something completely new to me. The process involves double and triple checking the labels and making sure there are no misspellings and other errors. Then each label needs to be spaced with at least two inches on the word document. Once this is done, the whole word document can be printed out on the appropriate paper. Now comes the tedious part.

There is a product called positionable mounting paper, which is a adhesive that gets transferred from its original paper source to the back of the labels. To do this, I take one sheet of labels which has about three labels (two when it comes to Lewis Hine’s discursive titles) when spaced out. Then I roll out the mounting paper to expose the adhesive and position the paper, preferably the right-hand corner. After that, using a box cutter, I cut out paper and smooth is out repeatedly, using a flat tool that comes with the mounting paper, in different patterns. Then I pull the backing of the adhesive off slowly, transferring the adhesive to the back of the paper.

The next part of this process becomes harder. I first adhere the paper to the foam core and again smooth it out while checking for markings. Once finished, I use the box cutter and cut out the area of foam core that has the paper on it. I next divided the labels into sections (three or two depending on the amount of labels on the paper) and proceed to measure out the amount of space needed. Each label should about an inch to 3/4 of an inch of white space surrounding it. This can become tedious as it may take multiple measurements to make sure the cut is just right. An experienced person can do about 10 in one hour, finishing our exhibit in about 1 day. I am not experienced and took most of my day to do one sheet of foam core (about 12-15 labels).

AHM Internship – Week 9

The date for the opening is approaching quickly. We are about one month away from our opening date. While last week I worked on the catalog, I am now working on some of the finer details of the exhibit such as framing, matting, and making sure the prints came out perfect. However, one persistent issue that has plaguing the whole process was the actual color of the photos that were being printed. For some reason, all of the prints that we obtained from the Library of Congress (LOC) database were showing up on Photoshop normal, but then when they printed, the image had tints of green, blue and some even red. Throughout the past few weeks I have been researching this issue to find a solution. Through many trials and errors, the curator at AHM and me were able to find temporary solution. When I would upload the photograph on Photoshop, I would have to switch the mode that the original photo was in. This worked for the majority of the LOC photographs and allowed me to print all of them. Next week, I will be shown how to create the labels for the photographs so that we can put them on the exhibit walls.

AHM Internship – Week 8

This week at AHM left me putting the final details of the catalog layout together. I spent this past week doing the tedious job of making sure every photo has a caption, in a specific order, and in a specific section. This took up the bulk of my time as it needed to be checked multiple times to insure accuracy. The next step on this process was putting everything in order according to the way everything will be hung in the exhibit. This was much easier as once I had everything created, I was then able to switch some of the sections. The last part of building the exhibit catalog included putting in the finish pieces such as headers, title and cover page, as well as rear cover page. The finish project looked perfect (at least to me), and I cannot wait to see the final product. I was so happy to be part of this experience as I was able to learn the details of making an exhibit catalog while figuring out my own organizational skills in the process.

AHM Internship – Week 7

Another busy week at AHM as we are putting together the catalog for the exhibit. The catalog is a representation of the whole exhibit, minus any last minute details/objects that we choose to put in the exhibit. This will be published and distributed to those who wish to buy it as a souvenir of the exhibit. However there are several things I needed to do in order to put this exhibit together.

I first needed to gather all of the items that are going to be in the exhibit. This includes all of the section introductions, and all photographs and accompanying captions. Then I need the specific order of the photographs as they will be placed in the exhibit. This was probably the hardest part, as I first needed to get those involved to send me their order. After getting all of information, it then needs to assembled in a particular order, which is what I will spend the greater part of next week on.

AHM Internship – Week 6

This week at Anthracite Heritage Museum, I was able to finally start the printing process of the photographs for this exhibit. It’s one thing to sit and talk about the photographs that will be included but to do the hands-on work and actually print them is another thing. This means that the exhibit is actually almost here. It is so exciting, since I have been working on this project since May. Now we are all getting into gear as we only have a little more than a month until the exhibit opens. The photographs I have printed out so far, have come out beautiful. I cannot wait to see what they look like matted and framed.

However, now that we getting closer to the opening, it is requiring a little multi-tasking as now everything needs to start being wrapped up such as the catalog for the exhibit, preparing the actual exhibit space, and going over and last minute details that have yet to be addressed. So far, everything is getting completed and we are on schedule and hopefully, barring any curves, we will stay on schedule.