Butte Archives works to restore Smithers Photograph Collection


BUTTE, Mont. - The Butte Archives said they're working to restore one of their biggest photo collections. About 15,000 negatives from the Smithers Photograph Collection document more than 50 years of Mining City history. But many of them are damaged. Aubrey Jaap with the Butte Archives showed us pictures of the C. Owen Smithers Collection, scanned from the original negatives. The thousands of pictures were taken by Owen Smithers Sr. and his son, Owen Smithers Jr. "There's subjects really on everything -- sports, schools, policemen, photos of fires throughout Butte. He really took photos of everything," said Jaap. While the photos are a great document of Butte history, they've also been damaged from two floods, a fire and being in storage. Charlie Smithers, the son of Owen Smithers Jr., got those pictures passed down to him. He wanted the public to be able to see his grandfather's work, but also knew the collection needed restoration. The Butte Archives will be seeking professional advice to train them how to clean the smoke, mold and water damage from the negatives. Japp told us they hope to do all the restoration work, but says it'll take a long time. They expect to spend one to two years bringing each individual photo back to the way it was the day it was developed. "They're beautiful images still, even the damaged ones. Its pretty amazing what image quality you can still get from them," she said. Japp said she's thankful the father-son duo captured so much of Butte's history. The Phyllis Washington Foundation, Diane Kimble and many others donated more than $113,000 for the Butte Archives to buy this photograph collection.

To learn more about the collection or how to donate visit

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