By Micah Watney Sterling, KS — March 8, 2018, 2:07 P.M.
Sterling College’s Art Department prides themselves on being able to draw the community in to visit the art gallery full of showcases. This doesn’t just apply to student works, however. The department also displays a variety of work that is either on tour or has been donated to the college. This school year alone, the art department has hosted three different showcases open to the public: National Parks Poster Exhibit, Dust to Dust and currently, the mysterious Sterling Tintype Photography Exhibit.
Assistant Professor of Art, Daniel Swartz, discovered a series of tintypes in a box stored away on campus. It presumably has been gathering dust for decades.
“They seemed to [be stored] close to the area where advancement and alumni were storing things. So, I asked Scott Carter [VP of Institutional Advancement]. He didn’t know anything about them. These things could’ve been here for 70-50 years and have just been passed along waiting to be discovered.”
— Daniel Swartz
These tintypes also display a number of unidentified people in them and don’t show much detail to give any clues as to where to look for more information. The only photo in this collection that contains an identifiable figure is one with Ulysses S. Grant. and a handwritten note in pencil on the back.
So, what is a tintype exactly? Well, it is a very early form of photography that was patented in the 1850s. Swartz states that the process starts with the coating of a thin sheet of metal with a light-sensitive material. The sheet is then exposed to light through a camera. Unlike today’s digital photography, it is impossible to make a copy of a tintype. This means that all tintypes are originals.
Apart from being one of the most fascinating exhibits the art gallery has shown, it was also one of the easiest to set up, according to Swartz. He states that this exhibit only took 10-12 hours to complete, which is minimal when compared to the Dust to Dust exhibit which took about 100 hours to complete. “This was fast, because all it was, was cleaning and organizing and then mounting” stated Swartz.
Make sure to visit the exhibit before its last day, March 29, 2018. It is open to public Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maybe you can help uncover the hidden mystery behind these tintypes!