Robidoux brings life to historical photos

Pictured above is one of the photos on display as part of Robidoux Row and St. Joseph Historical Society’s new exhibit, ‘St. Joseph in Color.’

New life is being given to historical photos through colorization at a local museum.

Daniel Johnson, executive director of the Robidoux Row Museum and St. Joseph Historical Society, said the new exhibit, “St. Joseph in Color,” is possible thanks to the David H. Morton Memorial Fund for the Arts and the Allied Arts Council.

“What we were able to do is to go through our archives of all the photos that we have of all the years here in St. Joe and colorize them to bring life back to them,” Johnson said. “Our team went through probably about 1,000 pictures to kind of whittle them down to 300 or 400 that look the way we want them to look. And then we ended up with about 150 or so pictures that were colorized.”

The date of the photos ranges from the 1800s to the 1950s. Some images were printed and displayed for the new exhibit, while the remaining photos can be viewed on a monitor.

Johnson said this is an excellent way for people to see St. Joseph’s history through a new lens.

“As it was when it wasn’t history,” Johnson said. “So people can see what people looked like when they were walking on the streets. They were obviously not in black and white; they weren’t in this darkscape ... and how close we truly are to our ancestors and what St. Joseph used to be and how we can re-achieve some of that glory we used to have.”

The museum partnered up with DeOldify to use its access to MyHeritage software to colorize the images.

“If you have an old family photo and sign up with their service (MyHeritage), you can put your photo, and then they use an AI (artificial intelligence) system where it’ll pinpoint each different kind of texture change to create that new color for you,” Johnson said. “You can actually see differences in clothing, even on people that you expected to be wearing the exact same color clothing when you did the picture originally.”

This exhibit officially opened the weekend of Sept. 25.

“We had a special exhibit opening for our members and the people involved with the Morton grant, but we are opening it to the entire public,” Johnson said.

Johnson said some people might even recognize themselves or family members in the photos.

“If they see grandpa in a picture, or they know somebody, we would absolutely love that because we are trying to connect stories to all these pictures,” Johnson said.

This exhibit is exciting for Johnson and the museum staff, who hope all who visit enjoy it as much as they do.

“We want people to experience it. That’s the biggest thing for us because we did it to bring history to life and kind of show the artistic side of St. Joe’s history,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, you get the split between the art museums and history museums, and we wanted to do an art exhibit showing history itself.”

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