Read More UMBC News Blog Stories

January 1, 2001


UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery has extended "Patapsco: Portrait of a Valley, Photographs by Peggy Fox," an exhibition featuring 70 of Peggy Fox's photographic portraits of the elders of the historic Patapsco Valley and surrounding landscapes, accompanied by excerpts from Alison Kahn's oral histories. The exhibition will continue to be on view through June 30. The original exhibition, organized by Sally Voris for the Friends of the Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway, Inc., included 55 photographs commissioned by the Friends. The presentation at UMBC includes 15 new prints produced by Fox especially for this venue, to further document the environment which defines and characterizes the Patapsco Valley.

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information call (410) 455-2270.

On Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m., the Gallery and The Friends present the performance, "Inside the Memory Box: Stories of the Patapsco Valley," featuring archival images of UMBC, personal reminiscences, a staged reading of a script and a production of a one-act play by The Patapsco Players. The variety of forms demonstrates ways to bring a documentary project to life dramatically--just as the exhibit demonstrates how photographer and folklorist work together to create the documentary products. A public reception will follow.

A three-year collaborative effort begun in 1997, this collection of images and interviews is the product of a project that documents the changing cultural life of the Patapsco Valley. Through the vivid images by Fox and the poignant text by Kahn, the exhibition captures the faces and memories of some 60 senior residents of Ellicott City, Oella, Relay and Elkridge. The oral history and photographic project received major funding from the Maryland Historical Trust, and was coordinated by the Friends of the Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway, Inc. (formerly the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee).

Off the interstate corridor that links Baltimore and Washington, D.C. lies a quiet valley carved by the Patapsco River and its branches and straddling Baltimore and Howard Counties. At this junction of coastal plain and piedmont, fertile flats give way to rolling hills and rocky outcrops. Water power and transportation crossings led to the use of the valley as the site for mill towns - producing iron, flour and textiles - which marked the birth of industry in Maryland. Beyond the villages lie rural tracts that hint at the earlier importance of agriculture in the region, as well as secluded residential settlements that represent an early stage of the suburban impulse. Today, highways, strip malls and extensive housing development eclipse these reminders of a very different era from the valley's past.

But to know its ways and stories, you must talk to the elders whose lives spanned the better part of the last century and whose memories archive the unrecorded details and textures of the past. Their numbers are dwindling and as they go, more and more of the valley lore is lost. This project represents a timely effort to document the changing cultural life of the Patapsco Valley, the roots of which reside in its mills, farms, family businesses, historic communities and rural traditions.

Fox's "environmental photographs" place her subjects in their own setting - whether a living room, a workplace, a garden or a shop, while Kahn's interviews provide the words and stories to further define these particular personalities for the viewer. The result is a powerful combination of words and images, which evocatively document the human texture of this region's life and legacy. Fox says, "The collaboration isa balance of independence and cooperation and communication. We share an empathetic approach to field work and an intuitive sympathy to people and place."

Accompanying the exhibition at UMBC will be an illustrated catalog, featuring interviews with Fox and Kahn, in which they discuss the relationship between the photographer and historian/folklorist in the development of this documentary project.

The exhibition "Patapsco: Portrait of a Valley" has received major funding support from the Elkridge Furnace Inn, its title sponsor, as well as from the Howard County Arts Council; The Framer's Vise; and FCNB Bank.

Its presentation at UMBC has been funded in part by the American Studies Department and the Special Sessions Policy Committee. Generous support has also come from the Friends of the Library and Gallery and from an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. "Voices from the Patapsco Valley" (the April 21 event) is also sponsored by the Friends of the Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway, Inc. and UMBC's Department of American Studies and was developed with funding from the Maryland Celebrates 2000 Commission.

Posted by dwinds1 at January 1, 2001 12:00 AM