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Dorothea Lange’s exhibit opens at Bell County Museum

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Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014 4:30 am

BELTON — The Bell County Museum hosted an opening reception Saturday in honor of its newest exhibit, Dorothea Lange’s America.

The exhibit, on display through May 3, features original prints by the legendary photographer.

Dave Hansen, a Temple College photography professor, discussed Lange’s start in photography and covered some highlights of her best known images that chronicle abject poverty in the rural Depression-era America.

Among the photos are three Lange took in Bell County.

In addition to Lange’s photographs, the museum displays its own Depression-era feed sacks, and tells how they were made into clothing-like dresses and how companies marketed their designs to help poor families.

Another display case shows Works Progress Administration tools, a civilian conservation corps uniform and a reconstructed Hooverville shack. There also are games and extra-credit assignments for children.

Program coordinator Troy Gray was eager to explain the iPads on display.

“Well, I’m excited because it brings the museum up to date. We’re talking about the hobo codes here,” he said, adding that many men and women lost their homes and traveled by foot or rail, and the code’s images helped them find food and shelter and avoid dangers.

Gray also pointed out how the exhibit shows important statistics of current poverty, stating 4,363 homeless veterans are in Texas, and that 17 percent of Bell County residents are at risk for hunger.

“What we want to do with this is exhibit is say ‘yes,’ there was a Great Depression and many people were (affected), but there are still people suffering today,” Gray said.

During the opening reception, historical interpreter Tim Potts portrayed a Dust Bowl farmer telling his story of survival, and answered questions from the audience. Potts is a history teacher at Belton’s New Tech High School @ Waskow.

Nancy Pfiester of Harker Heights enjoyed the exhibits and prints.

“These photographs are just great. ... (She) put a priority on average people who were not in the magazines. They’re not models. These are women who are America,” she said.

The museum is at 201 N. Main St. in Belton. Call 254-933-5243 or go to www.bellcountymuseum.org.

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1 comment:

  • Elizabeth Partridge posted at 6:21 pm on Sat, Feb 22, 2014.

    Elizabeth Partridge Posts: 1

    This exhibit looks terrific! I love that you made a special effort to include the three photographs she took in Bell County. good sleuth work! I think it is terrific that you put together an exhibition of a shack.

    I've just published a book on Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, and the companion film will be shown this fall on PBS's American Masters, for anyone who would like to know more about Lange and her work.

    Congratulations on the exhibition!