Online Exhibits


Melba Young of Fayetteville with her toy, 1910s. Jo Hall Collection

When we sit for a formal portrait we carefully consider what we wear, where we stand, and what we pose with. Our picture is composed to tell a story, to record a moment in our lives.

What we pose with says a lot about us. If we pose in front of our house with our horses and household goods we show our prosperity. Posing with a pretty quilt or a spinning wheel shows our talent, while posing with a Bible shows our faith. Including a framed photo of a departed loved one in a photo shows that they are still part of our lives.

In the past it was usually only the rich and powerful who had their portraits painted by artists. Once the camera was invented in the early 1800s many people could afford portraits. Traveling photographers often took pictures of folks outside their homes.

Back then low lighting and camera technology made it difficult to take photos indoors, so folks brought their treasured items outside. A favorite doll, a pack of hunting dogs, a piece of fancy furniture. Wearing their best clothing, a family posed with their prized possessions in front of their home, another source of pride. The photo could then be sent to family and friends to let them know that all was well.

Today we still pose for photos with our favorite things, although we might use our cell phone to take the shot and send it instantly around the world.


William Ross Little family with their horses and tricycle, Summers, 1900s. Mary Ellen Johnson Collection (S-89-94-17)

Noted horseman Carl Ownbey, Sr., with his matched pair of horses, Spring Street, Springdale, 1900s. Carl Ownbey Collection (S-2006-27-7)

James and Cynthia Secor with their quilt, LaRue, 1920s. Doris Leak Collection (S-84-50-40)

Susan Wolfe Hubbard with her dogs, Washington County, 1916. Ruth Morris Collection (S-89-40-12)

Prized Possessions Photo Gallery

Online Exhibits Home


Photo of the MonthArtifact of the Month