Focus on past
Submitted by Michelle Landriault The Dalkeith Historical Society hosted guest speaker Dane Lanken on Saturday evening, September 16 at the Robertson Clark building.
Society spokesperson Francis Fraser welcomed Mr. Lanken, a writer and Glengarry historian who introduced the 30 guests to the works of photographer Duncan Donovan (1853-1933).
At first a travelling photographer, once he was based in Alexandria from about 1896 to post-WWI, Mr. Donovan focused his lens on Glengarry with excursions into parts of Prescott County, and the VaudreuilSoulanges region. The fact that so much of his work is centred in one location, means it provides a valued historical record.
Mr. Lanken brought a tantalizing selection of Donovan's images - people, most of whom are not identified; events, plus recognizable buildings located in Alexandria and nearby. One photo was taken at a graveside interment. As Mr. Lanken explained, early photographs were treasured items and often limited to life events. Unlike today when cell phones are overcrowded by volumes of snapshots that often become worthless.
Those in attendance greatly appreciated the images, and learning more about the photographer. Incomplete surviving collections of images & glass plate negatives by Mr. Donovan are held in the Glengarry County Archives, in Alexandria, and in the Ontario Archives at York University.
Few studio records of Donovan's works survive. Mr. Lanken made the point that if the photographs of people had been identified by their owners on the back of the photos, they would be of much more historical value to families, and to enriching local history. He encouraged everyone to take the time to identify the people in their family photos. Living memory is a fragile thing.
The successful summer evening event concluded with gratitude for the delicious potluck supper donations, and the melodic music of Brian Caddell.
VIVID RECOLLECTIONS: Historian Dane Lanken provided a snapshot of the life of photographer Duncan Donovan.