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Marietta Then and Now series connects readers to the past
June 7, 2011 - Art Smith
History always has been an important part of Marietta for the people who live and work in the city.
I’ve always enjoyed learning about history. In fact, when I was in college at Ohio University I took so many American history classes that I eventually ran out of classes to take. Chuck Scott, the legendary photojournalism professor, once asked me what I was going to do with all the history. At age 20 I likely didn’t have an answer for him, but with the passage of time I’ve learned that knowledge of history can help put the present in context with the past.
Around 11 years ago I put together a book for The Times called “Picturesque Past.” The book contained hundreds of old photos of the Marietta area. The speed that we sold out of the books was a testament to how important history is to our readers.
The book, and some other projects, got me thinking about how it would be interesting to take some old photos and duplicate the exact location today. A graduate class at Marietta College gave me the push to do it as a project.
The conventional measure of success for an academic project is to get it published in an academic journal.
I’ve never really been all that conventional. Besides, it was a project that really needs to be experienced in an interactive fashion. So I put it on this website, named it Marietta Then and Now, promoted it with a few links and waited to see what kind of response I would get.
What I found is the old photos connected to the present touched a nerve with a lot of people. So much so that many have reached out to me via email and phone calls over the years to share memories of places in the photos.
One photo even ended up in a second-grade textbook on a page that talks about how communities change over time.
Even after a decade, the series continues to get traffic on our site. In the last year the series has had around 32,000 page views, meaning each photo in the series gets viewed around 1,600 times a year.
After a decade, though, some of the “now” photos in the series were starting to look a little dated. The Becky Thatcher for instance, which left Marietta and later sank, was still moored to the riverbank behind the armory in the “now” photo.
Several new pages also have been added to the series. Several, but not all, of the “now” photos have also been replaced. The text on many of the pages also has been modified to acknowledge events that have occurred since the photos were first added.