“Through the Lens” - History Museum Announces Showcase

Harbor Springs, Michigan, July 24, 2023 – The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society will offer a special showcase of the late photographer Virgil D. Haynes’ collection of nostalgic Harbor Springs images during an event at the Harbor Springs History Museum on August 3. The museum and Haynes display will be open from 10am - 4pm, with a special presentation at 1 pm.

Recently acquired by the society from the Haynes family and through a generous gift from Kerry and Charles L. Wilson III and the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, this important collection includes more than 6,000 negatives taken over the course of several decades following Virgil Haynes’ return from World War II. 

“The acquisition of these extraordinary images enriches not only our archival collection but specifically complements a collection donated by former local photographer Bruce Gathman,” said Kristyn Balog, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “Virgil was a visionary photographer, and we are proud to display his transformative images during this showcase. We’re extremely grateful for the generosity of the Wenger Foundation, a true partner in our goal to elevate appreciation of our local history.”

Back in July 2009, Bruce Gathman donated his business file of images to the society. The Gathman Collection includes around 20,000 negatives and prints not only from Gathman but Haynes’ as well. This is because when Gathman purchased “Photography by Haynes” from Virgil in 1974 he also purchased Haynes’ business negatives. These were commissioned images, photographs taken for a customer including senior portraits and weddings.

The collection recently acquired by the Historical Society differs greatly from this earlier donation because it is made up of never-before-seen personal images which Haynes took for his own enjoyment while out and about — the “goings on” of merchants, parade crowds, special events and everyday life in a small town.

Virgil and his wife Audrey operated a full-service professional photography business and camera shop in downtown Harbor Springs from 1947 to 1974. “Some of my earliest memories were watching my dad making prints in his darkroom,” said Cynthia Haynes, who has been caring for her late father’s extensive work since his passing in 1998. “By age 13, I was put to work during summers, generally behind the film counter. My brother Roger learned custom framing.”

“Our father always wished for this Harbor Springs collection of his own personal images to end up preserved at the museum and for people to be able to find relatives and old friends pictured,” Haynes added. He always loved history and the story behind the photograph."

It was only in 1988 that I first looked at these personal Harbor Springs images. It was quite astounding and emotional seeing in front of me the simple, gentle times of my youth—right there with literal photographic detail,” Haynes said. It changed the course of things when I realized others felt the same emotional attachments, and it pleased Virgil to see how much other people enjoyed the photographs when I began having some exhibits. Now we have a much larger offering of these memories available to a wider audience.”

The Historical Society’s online archival database will be updated to include these new negatives, offering the public access to the collection via their website, HarborSpringsHistory.org. At the August 3 showcase, Curator Beth Wemigwase will explain how guests can view these images online and will also share an illustrated look back at Haynes’ life and his importance to the Harbor Springs community. The event will also feature a silent auction of five 20” x 24” framed prints and some copies of Haynes’ books.

The showcase, which includes refreshments, is free of charge. Auction proceeds and donations will benefit the nonprofit Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and their ongoing care of their permanent collection.

A nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990, the Historical Society preserves, interprets and shares the history of the Harbor Springs area, while encouraging curiosity and promoting an understanding of how the lessons of the past can foster an informed community.