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Portraits available at Sikeston Depot

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(Photo)
Betty Johns, president of the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation Board of Directors, Mary Baugher and Myra Baughter-Gilland look over the photo collection.
SIKESTON -- If you or your family had your portrait made by Baugher or Dysart Studios between 1946 and 1974, then chances are your photo is one of thousands sitting in the alphabetically-divided boxes at the Sikeston Depot museum.

Beginning Thursday and through Nov. 1, the public will have the opportunity to "come find themselves" at the Depot's Baugher/Dysart Photo Project Display.

Over the past few months, Depot volunteers have sifted through thousands of photos and portraits made by the late photographers Loy Baugher, Mike Dysart and Vernon Auer of the Dysart Studio and Baugher Studio.

"We want you to come in and have a good time going through the portraits, and if you find your name, they're yours to take," Sikeston Depot Interim Director Mike Marsh said.

These mostly 8-by-10 photos will be available for family and friends to keep on a first-come, first-served basis. Photos include babies, weddings, first communions, service men, graduations and other occasions. They also include many people from New Madrid, Charleston, Catron and Illmo-Scott City, to name a few.

"Every letter of the alphabet is represented," Marsh said.

The Depot received the portrait collection a few years ago from the family of Don Miller, who was the last person to own the collection.

"Two years ago, we tried to start a project to catalog these, and we got started, but it was a huge task," Marsh said.

Eventually the project was put on hold, and the collection has sat at the Sikeston Public Library, where it's being stored.

Then in May, when Marsh took over as the Depot's temporary director, he suggested making the portraits available to the public, and the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation Board of Directors approved the concept.

So Marsh and several Depot volunteers and board members spent the summer sorting through the photos.

The undertaking was divided into two phases, Marsh said. Phase one consisted of separating the portraits from the historic photos and trying to return the portrait to family and friends. Phase two will be sorting through the historic photos, he said.

"My wife and I sat in our basement and watched (St. Louis) Cardinals games while we sorted through the pictures," Marsh said. "And all of sudden, we realized we were done."

Marsh said everyone who has helped sort the pictures has had a wonderful time and most have spotted at least one person they know.

For example, Marsh found a picture of himself in kindergarten, a photo of his brother's graduation and a picture of his father, mother, aunt and uncle square dancing on New Madrid Street during the Cotton Carnival, he said.

"It was wonderful," agreed Nancy McMahon, vice president of the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation Board of Directors. "We all laughed at the hair styles. Frankly, so many have passed away, and it's sad."

Those worried about preserving history through the photos should know many of these portraits have five or six copies, Marsh said.

"We feel pretty strongly we're not going to use these pictures, and I know there are lots of people who will love these photos," Marsh said. "We're trying to get them back to people who would really appreciate them. It's easier for them to come to us than us to go to each person."

Tables and chairs are set up in a room at the Depot, where people can sit, take their time and go through boxes of pictures, Marsh said.

"They can bring a soda, sit down and spend an hour going through the pictures," Marsh said.

Marsh commended McMahon; Betty Johns, president of the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation Board of Directors; other volunteers; and the Sikeston Public Library for allowing the Depot to store the pictures there. Although there is no charge for the photographs, donations would be appreciated, Marsh said.

"We're not putting a price on these photos," Marsh said. "For some people, they're priceless."

The Depot Museum is located at 116 W. Malone Ave., and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. For further information, call 481-9967.