One of the greatest joys of traveling is stumbling across the gems that make our region so special. On a recent trip to Staunton, Virginia our staff photographer Gary Clark caught wind that the small town is home to the only dedicated camera-museum in the United States that is open to the public. Avid photo lover that he is, Gary couldn’t resist making a pit stop.
The Camera Heritage Museum, just an hour outside of Charlottesville, is run by David Schwartz, a photo enthusiast who has been collecting cameras for more than 40 years (long before Instagram). Last year the museum opened, with a collection of nearly 900 cameras and thousands of images of historic Staunton curated by David. “I love cameras, I love to talk about cameras and I love anyone that does as well,” Gary says. “David has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things photo, and he is very willing to share that knowledge with anyone that walks in his door.”
Here, some of Gary’s favorite finds.
The Big Bertha Press camera made by Graphlex was used for sport photography, mainly baseball, in the early 1900s. Each one was handmade to fit the needs of the newspaper commissioning it. The model above is one of eight of its type ever made.
This tintype was popular from the Civil War through the 1940s. Noted as the predecessor to instant cameras such as Polaroid, tintypes were used for street photography. “People could get their picture made at Coney Island, and return 30 minutes later to pick it up,” David says.
The Grand Senior camera was made by Century before the company was bought out by Kodak. The camera was used by pros to capture architectural images.
The GSK-99, above, is a Japanese aerial camera. It is one of three types of this camera that were used in Pearl Harbor, and one of two that survived the bombings.
Does your town have a hobbyist museum you love? Tell us in the comments!