In addition to imprints and manuscripts, The Edward Deming Andrews Memorial Shaker Collection includes about 1,200 different images of the Shaker religious sect. At least fifteen Shaker communities located in eight states are represented. Although the photographs depict more than a century of Shaker life, most date from a fifty-year span of time beginning around 1880. The overwhelming number of images are in black and white, and a high percentage of the portraits are formal studies taken either in a photographer's studio or on a site at or near a Shaker community.
Many of the photographs show Shakers in their dwellings or at their workplaces. Outside shots usually show warm-weather scenes and the exteriors of buildings in which the Shakers lived and labored, while interior shots show the placement of everyday objects used by the Shakers. Shaker furniture and, to a lesser extent, other objects are the focus of several hundred photographs whose purpose seems to have been to record collections held either privately or in museums.
Interspersed among the individual photographs are several series of pictures assembled to show the world what the Shakers looked like and how they lived. They include Views of the North Family Shakers, 47 views of a New Lebanon, N.Y. family available from Anna White; Shaker Village, Canterbury, N.H., by H.A. Kimball; and several others.
While some photographers were mostly concerned with catching images on film for an immediate effect, others, such as William Winter, were undoubtedly also conscious of the impression that their work would have on succeeding generations. Winter, in his simple but well-composed photographs of Shaker buildings and things, captured the Society as its numbers were in decline. Through Winter's work, we see the remnants of what once was: buildings that had been much used by the Shakers and objects that the Shakers had crafted with care and precision. His photographs dealing with museum exhibitions add an extra dimension to his on-site depictions.
The collection's photographs of buildings will be of interest to architects, builders, and preservationists. Craftspersons and historians of material culture will be attentive to the activities depicted in photographs of such places as a woodworking shop, weaver's quarters, and a chair manufactory. Agriculturists will find shots of the gardens informative.
In short, this collection of Shaker photographs can serve the different needs of a variety of researchers. It is a representative collection, broad in its subject matter and, within, that breadth, deep in detail.