Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making
January 29, 2004 - March 5, 2004 * EXTENDED THROUGH MARCH *
The mission of Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making is to enhance the educational experience at Queens College through an interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of technology development.
To accomplish this,
of Old Technology collects, preserves, documents,
displays and interprets
selected technologies and related materials. The collection
but is not limited to, office and educational technology. Related items
collected from Queens College and other CUNY sources highlight the
of the College and the University as well. Our exhibit catalogs
are designed for the web, and a click on a catalog image provides an
enlargement. [Exhibit Flier - PDF Format / HTML Format] [More About Voices of Old Technology] [Previous Exhibits]
This exhibit is in the
display cases outside Rosenthal 230, the auditorium on the 2nd floor of
the Library. To get there, go to the Library's cafe area and take the elevator or the stairs down to the 2nd floor.
/ Separate Display Case
One of our recurring themes is that society moves ahead when each of us is creative in what we do. When we are not merely passive technology users, technology can help to feed our creativity.
We have spread through the exhibit cases a variety of photographic equipment in order to help us highlight issues such as: the interplay between technology and photographer; technology design and development; incompatible formats; and company change. The camera, projector and the lantern slides in this case were used at Queens College during the College’s early years.
Do “point and shoot” cameras – those permitting little or no adjustments by the user - make it difficult to be creative in photography? We don’t think so --- we think it makes it easier for many of us to be poetic and creative, although occasionally the gadgetry is incorrect in what it “knows” we want. Photographic equipment has always left room for the user’s creative decisions. Among these options are: selection of the equipment and the photographic media, the composition of the photograph, and the way of viewing, enhancing and displaying the results.
To illustrate, we asked Ellen Rondot and Jeff Castellan, two friends who help prepare our exhibits, to select some of their photographs for this display. Each beautifully filled a display case here in this exhibit. Ellen selected from pictures she had taken. Jeff selected some of his own pictures, as well as some from his family photo album that were taken by another photographer (circa 1920s), using unknown equipment. All of the pictures were enlarged using equipment that has recently become affordable to the non-professional to assist in photo editing and printing. The selections you see here, the compositions of the photographs themselves, and the way Ellen and Jeff have chosen to display them highlight this poetry, creativity and individuality.
The different approaches in the tree shots are wonderful examples; we think of Joyce Kilmer’s “A Poem Lovely as a Tree” and how these photos bring to our attention perspectives on the beauty of trees. Ellen looked at one entire unusual tree, and zoomed in on other trees’ tops and roots, grouping the 3 pictures together. Jeff took his pictures looking straight into the tree tops; you may recognize his trees --- they are on the Quadrangle. For further comparison, we included in this case two pictures taken by Syd Lefkoe; her pictures show other beautiful trees on campus and how they enhance the beauty of their surroundings. A very different kind of beautiful view of a tree could be a lantern slide of its cellular structure, projected using this lantern slide projector from Biology. And so on.
In one of our exhibits last year, we included photographic technology compatibility issues in a section on formats. In another display last year, we highlighted some of the "How to..." photography guides of different periods. Included in that exhibit was the following explanatory note we prepared then:
…The photographer wants the equipment to permit flexibility as well as control over various aspects of the image as it will appear, and selects equipment that will be right for a specific type of photography. As technology develops, it has permitted this in ways that may seem comical to us today. Note the instructions in… [that exhibit case last year]… for new 1920s era flash photography, describing how to use a match with a flash sheet to set off the flash...
Sigismund Blumann describes photography as art in his book Enlarging Manual (Photoart Publisher, San Francisco, 1940):
“…Another premise upon which the spirit of this book is built is that photography may be made a means of producing exemplars of Fine Art. That the camera shall not be limited to making reproductions of facts but may be used to express poesy and imagination…”We present in our current exhibit a glimpse of that “poesy and imagination” through our own photographers' work - for your pleasure and reflection. 1) Spencer Model GK Delineascope / Lantern Slide Projector
On Loan from Rosenthal Library
/ QC Archives
Donated to the QC Archives in 2001
Folmer Graflex Company,
Donated by: QC Photo Services (2003)
Specific use at QC not certain
Graflex and Wollensak have been leaders in a wide variety of
educational and office technologies. In our first exhibit, we
displayed a Singer-Graflex filmstrip viewer, donated by Rosenthal
Library. Singer-Graflex was the result of a merger between Singer (of
the sewing machines!) and Graflex. After another exhibit, we
received a Wollensak tape recorder from European Languages and
We found the following (and much more) about equipment covered by these patents (both filed in 1937) on the Patent Office web site:
The Title on the Patent Papers for 2,069,186: Copying Camera Equipment Unit and Film Magazine Used Therewith but Also Constituting a Distinct Unit
The Title and Partial Description on the Patent Papers for 2,107,074: Copying Camera Equipment Unit
"…This invention has further uses in making a series of photographic records, such as through a microscope or photographing recording meter, or it can be used as an identification camera for photographing a large number of persons in a very short time… I believe this… to be the first development of a camera which has as large a number of uses, without in any way impairing its operation or functions for any one of these various uses…”
tip: If you're curious about an item with a US Patent number, it's easy
to find some pieces of its story by using this search feature on the
Patent Office's web site at http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/srchnum.htm.
These two cameras are of roughly the same size and shape when they're closed. Polaroid's web site says that the film for the SX-70 camera is still available, but that the flashbar is not. Also according to Polaroid's web site, instant photography marked its 50th anniversary on February 21, 1997; they track the birth of instant photography to an announcement in 1947 by Edwin H. Land to the Optical Society of America. Not surprisingly, Polaroid has recently moved to digital photography.
Second Wall-Mounted Display Case (Right)
1) Photos by
Photos in the grouping on
the left side of this case were taken by Jeff Castellan on
campus. The trees are on the Quadrangle, and the view is from a window in Rosenthal Library.
The sepia-toned pictures are enlargements of photos from Jeff's family's photo
album, and were taken by another photographer circa 1920s in Copake Falls, NY
and at Kittredge Camp. Jeff refers to one of the Copake Falls pictures as "Can you hear me now???"
We've learned from The New York Times Historical Database
on the web that a Kittredge Camp was on Upper Twin Lake in Central
Valley, NY, and was part of a program to provide networking
opportunities for young business and professional women.
Research tip: The New York Times Historical Database includes articles and pictures from 1851 to 1999 (full text is in pdf format only), and is accessible from on-campus computers through the Queens College Library's NEW web pages at http://qcpages.qc.edu/Library/online/dbasetitle.html. Click "N," and then click "New York Times Historical." For information about the proxy server for off-campus access, go to http://qcpages.qc.edu/Library/online/offcampus.html. The NY Times places the citation information, including publication date, at the top of the article image.
2) Kodak Pazzazz Camera
Kodak, circa late 1980s - early 1990s; turquoise
Case is shown open, to show the information label about the 110 cartridge film used by this camera. Cute little camera. So you find this camera in a drawer --- does your friendly local drug store sell this film? What happens to the camera now?
Kodak is now focusing increasing attention on aspects of digital photography.
3) Le Clic Camera, with film disc used by this camera
Circa mid 1980s - Bright Yellow with accent colors
ShopRite Color Print Film; HR Disc / 15 exposures; Process O-41A
little camera. What about this film - where would you get a
supply of this film today? And where does this camera wind up
after you unearth it?
The story of CUNY alum Benjamin Berkey and his company’s history is fun but not so unusual in the development of and popularization of many different technologies. According to our research, Keystone Toy Company moves into rapidly expanding photography business. Keystone is bought by Berkey Photo. Berkey Photo adds newly popular pocket calculators to its products. Berkey sues Kodak (1973) in an anti-trust action – and wins, and is sued by Polaroid in a patent infringement action related to an instant camera that used Polaroid film.Further information can be found on the web at
The photo shows signs on the front door of the QC Bookstore,
which was on the main floor of Kissena Hall, in September 1974. Note the signs “We have Fresh Film”
and “Don’t take chances – Berkey Film Developing.” The location “SS 075”on another sign was the pre-law
advisement office in what was then Social Sciences Building, later
renamed Powdermaker Hall. We don't need to do hand-lettered signs like these anymore.
February 1900: The dawn of the 20th century is ushered in with a new arrival - the Kodak Brownie. It cost just one dollar and was so easy to use that even the youngest children could take perfect pictures.
What does the future hold? YOU can be an important part in the development of new technologies and exploration of new and better uses for current technologies. Did you ever say "It would've been better if only they... " So, what will it be?
Member, Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)
Member, Oral History Association
Curatorial and Aquisitions Assistance by:
Jeff Castellan, Ellen Rondot, Nancy Williams
Our "Museum in the Making"
is not an official museum of the College.
Still in the "startup" stage, it is a Member, American Association of Museums (AAM)
Catalog Photos of Display Cases by Ellen Rondot
All Other Catalog Photos by Syd Lefkoe
Technology and Web Accessibility
for People with Disabilities
CUNY's Statement on Accessibility
Web Site of the CUNY University Faculty Senate Committee on Disabilities Issues
© copyright 2004 by Syd Lefkoe