OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Historic photo exhibit to go on display at OSU, around state

05/11/1998

CORVALLIS - An exhibit of historical photographs by four members of the Gifford family will go on display at Oregon State University May 19 through July 12 as part of a 15-month traveling exhibit across Oregon.

The exhibit, "Photos by Gifford: An Oregon Legacy," will be on display at the university's CH2M-HILL Alumni Center. It is sponsored by the OSU Archives.

The Giffords arguably are Oregon's first family of photography. Beginning in 1888, when Benjamin A. Gifford emigrated to Portland from Kansas, they began a photographic tradition that lasted until the mid-1950s, spanning three generations.

Overall, the Gifford Collection contains some 5,000 prints, another 4,500 film negatives, 600 glass negatives and dozens of color transparencies that provide a photographic history of Oregon during those 70 years the family made photographs professionally. The traveling exhibit contains more than 50 selected images that are representative of the collection, and of each family member.

Benjamin A. Gifford is best known for his images of American Indians and for scenic shots of central Oregon and the Portland area. His photographs documented the building of the Columbia River Highway and his scenics of the gorge were used widely around Oregon and nationally.

His son, Ralph I. Gifford, worked in his father's photographic studio as an apprentice, eventually assuming control of the studio. In 1936, he became the first photographer of the newly established Travel and Information Department of the Oregon State Highway Commission. For years, Ralph Gifford's scenic shots were used to promote tourism in Oregon.

After Ralph Gifford's death in 1947 at the age of 53, his wife, Wanda Muir Gifford, took over the family business. A 1916 graduate of OSU (then Oregon Agricultural College), she became an accomplished photographer specializing in landscapes and photographing children.

Ralph and Wanda Gifford's son, Ben L. Gifford, graduated from OSU (Oregon State College) in 1950 and a year later, began helping his mother with the family photography business. Beginning in 1955, he worked 27 years as an engineer for the Oregon Department of Transportation. He died in 1996.

"The collection is an important source of documentation of all of Oregon's geographical areas, and a significant number of the photos document Oregon's traditional resource-based industries," said Lawrence A. Landis, acting university archivist at OSU.

The Gifford Collection was donated by Ben L. Gifford to OSU's Horner Museum in 1986. The OSU Archives received the collection when Horner Museum closed to the public.

The schedule for the traveling exhibit includes:

CORVALLIS

May 19 through July 12, 1998 - The CH2M-Hill Alumni Center at Oregon State University.

NEWPORT

July 16 to Oct. 16, 1998 - The Oregon Coast History Center.

THE DALLES

Oct. 24, 1998 to Jan. 3, 1999 - The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum.

BEND

Jan. 7, 1999 to Feb. 5, 1999 - Pinckney Art Gallery at Central Oregon Community College.

SALEM

Feb. 12, 1999 to May 7, 1999 - The Oregon State Archives.

PORTLAND

Dates TBA in 1999 - Collins Gallery in the Multnomah County Central Library.