Museum offers free photograph workshop


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a family photograph left without a story is often thrown away, its meaning lost forever.

The date on this photograph is Thanksgiving Day 1930. The photograph's donor also identified the people in the picture and wrote that it was taken at 109 Church St., the present-day Inn Around the Corner in Black Mountain. What we don't know is why these people had Thanksgiving together that year (their last names are Seidel, Champlain, Maddox, Wilson, Dawson, and Mosely). Were they family? Close friends? Neighbors?  What were their Thanksgiving traditions in 1930? What did their day look like?

On Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Black Mountain Public Library, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center in partnership with the Family Narrative Project will offer a free workshop from 6:30–7:30 p.m. to teach techniques for writing about family photographs.

The museum preserves and protects thousands of historic photographs from the Swannanoa Valley. Many of these photographs are unidentified.

“We consider ourselves lucky when we find photographs that have names and dates attached to them, but for the vast majority that is the extent of the information that has been provided to us,” museum director Anne Chesky Smith said.

Every week the Swannanoa Valley Museum submits a historic photograph and caption for "Valley Rewind" in The Black Mountain News.

“Putting together captions for the Valley Rewind photographs can be very difficult,” Chesky Smith said. “It often requires hours of research through the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, newspaper archives, and other historical collections to piece together dates and other clues to figure out the most basic details about a photograph. And even after all that research we still don't often know the human story behind the photograph."

“We love when photographs come to us and donors take the time to really let us know as much as they can about them. We hope this workshop will help people pass on their memories with simple, but detailed captions.”

Participants in the hour-long workshop are encouraged to bring a photograph that has a special story that they would like to tell. And, if they’d like, they can have their photograph and caption scanned and archived at the museum. They can either donate the original or keep their original and donate a copy to the museum.

During the workshop, the founders of the Family Narrative Project will give a presentation on writing successful captions for photographs and help participants craft a caption for a personal photograph. The business conducts family narrative writing retreats, records family stories and designs products for individual clients, preserving stories for generations to come. More information about it can be found at

Registration is requested via the museum website, but not required. For more information, contact the museum.

Family Narrative Project Photograph Workshop
Black Mountain Public Library
When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 26
Cost: Free
Register: 669-9566;