Many photographs depicting Nanaimo’s rich history are never seen by the public.
They’re stored in private collections or family attics. The photos are also susceptible to damage and because there is usually only one they can be lost forever.
Nanaimo resident Matt James is passionate about restoring old photographs. He finds many on eBay, works with archive organizations or museum, and convinces some private collectors to allow him to scan the images so he can restore them to their former glory.
Some private collectors will allow James to view the images but not scan them.
“I try to collect photographs, but it’s very difficult because nobody wants to part with them,” he said. “They like to hang on to them.”
James said he repairs the images with Adobe Photoshop. He taught himself through trial and error how to remove scratches, fading, oxidization and other problems that have changed the photos. It used to take him more than 20 hours to restore a photo but now it can take him about three hours.
He restores the pictures regardless of what they depict. He likes to see how people react to them and what people’s favourites are.
His photographs resonate with seniors who have lived in Nanaimo for decades, said James.
“You see the elderly people walk up to the picture and they remember it,” he said.
During a past exhibit James remembers a man in his 90s who was a shut-in. It was one of the only times the man had ventured out of his house. James said for the elderly gentleman it was like walking along memory lane. He went through the exhibit and could remember many of the places.
Some of the restored photographs are currently on display at the Nanaimo Museum and are available for viewing by the public throughout June.
People have a chance to bring part of Nanaimo’s history in to their homes during a silent auction of nearly 30 of the images on June 6, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the museum. The exhibit is in the museum lobby and is free to view. The museum gallery will also be open during the silent auction event and entry is a nominal fee.
James has selected four pieces to raise money for the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Nile Creek Enhancement Society, Nanaimo Archives and the Hospice Shoppe in Nanaimo.
Each photograph’s sale supports a specific charity. James will donate partial proceeds for the remaining prints up for auction.