Many of us will be tuning in to PBS this week to watch Ken Burns' film on America's National Parks. The cinematography of Burns and his crew is often breath-taking in its beauty. Viewers also might be struck by the beauty and quality of the historical photographs. These images have frozen the parks in that moment in time when they were taken. Be it a year, fifty years, a century, or more ago, these photos document the changing - and unchanging - history of some of the most beautiful and unspoiled wilderness areas in the United States.
Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston (1858-1946) was a native of Louisville. An engineer by training, he was a photographer by avocation. He was the long time president and patron of The Filson. One of Mr. Thruston's favorite activities was traveling. His credo must have been "have camera will travel" because wherever he went he took his camera with him. Be it the mountains of eastern Kentucky in the 1880s, Egypt in 1907, or China in 1920, RCBT (as we fondly refer to him) chronicled his travels via photographs. If Mr. Thruston thought of himself as nothing more than a shutterbug, he sold himself short. The overall quality of his photos - including clarity, exposure, and composition - is outstanding. The thousands of photos in his collection here at The Filson serve as a legacy to Thruston the photographer as well as the visual documentarian and are a priceless resource.
In honor of Mr. Thruston and "America's Best Idea" (to quote the subtitle of Ken Burns' film) shown here are a selection of Mr. Thruston's photos of national parks.