AUSTIN, Texas — More than 100 historic photographs documenting Natchez, Miss., and its residents from the 1870s to the 1920s are currently on display in an exhibit at The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for American History.
The exhibition, Natchez on the Mississippi, features the work of Henry Norman, a photographer who worked in Natchez from 1870 until his death in 1913. It will remain on display through Aug. 31 at the center’s research and collection division, located in Sid Richardson Hall Unit 2, adjacent to the LBJ Library and Museum. Public viewing hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. There is no charge for admission.
Norman operated a successful portrait business, but often left his studio to capture the visual record of daily life throughout the town. His legacy, more than 75,000 photographs, documents the historic river port town in the last decades of the 19th century when steamboats and cotton still dominated transportation and commerce. His work includes images of the Mississippi River; luxurious interiors of the great paddlewheel steamboats; studio portraits of African-American families and Jewish merchants; photographs of Natchez street scenes, buildings and plantation mansions; pictures of Natchez residents observing official occasions and enjoying leisure time; and images of the notorious Natchez Under-the-Hill.The photographs provide a visual record of Natchez from the Civil War through the Victorian era into the 20th century. Dr. Thomas Gandy, a Natchez physician, and his wife, Joan Gandy, curated the Center for American History exhibition. After acquiring this enormous collection in 1960, Gandy spent more than 35 years cleaning, arranging, describing, preserving and making enlarged prints of Norman’s work. He also gathered information about the subjects documented in the photographs.
The Gandys have published three books: Norman’s Natchez: An Early Photographer and His Town, published by University Press of Mississippi, 1978; Natchez Victorian Children, 1981; and The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs, 1987. Natchez on the Mississippi was a featured exhibit at the Barbican Centre in London and the North York Performing Arts Centre in Toronto in 1993 and at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1995.
The 116 exhibition prints in Natchez on the Mississippi recently were acquired by UT Austin’s Center for American History, a special collections library, archive and museum that facilitates research and sponsors programs on the historical development of the United States. The center has added the photographs to its Littlefield Southern History Collections, one of the nation’s principal resources for research on topics related to the history of the 11 states that seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861. Another resource in the center’s Littlefield Collections is its Natchez Trace Collection (1780-1900), which contains more than 450 feet of original manuscripts, financial and legal records, diaries, maps, sheet music and pamphlets documenting the history of the lower Mississippi River Valley, including Natchez.
For additional information, contact Alison Beck of the Center for American History, (512) 495-4515.