For Roger Durham, the challenge was to coax the bigger picture from the smaller frame.
“Every photograph is a tiny window to a split second in time,” said Durham, director of the Army Heritage Museum. He currently oversees staff and a collection of some 50,000 artifacts that will be part of a future building in the Army Heritage and Education Center complex off Army Heritage Drive in Middlesex Township.
Peering deep, beyond the foreground, Durham could make out the long-dead faces staring back, leaving him to wonder what those people thought of their time at Carlisle Barracks.
He will probably never know, but thinking about the history made the flat old images come alive and stand at attention.
Durham hopes his new book, “Images of America: Carlisle Barracks,” gives readers off and on post a better understanding of the second-oldest military installation in the country.
Arcadia Press contacted Durham last spring. The publishing house wanted him to do a book on the U.S. Army War College, but Durham suggested an overall history of the installation.
“The War College has only been a factor since 1951,” Durham said. “Carlisle Barracks has been a post since 1757.”
Durham had done work through Arcadia before on a book published in 2004 about Fort McAllister, Ga., the last Confederate stronghold that protected Savannah from Sherman’s March to the Sea.
“Carlisle Barracks has a long history,” Durham said. “A lot of famous and influential people passed through its doors. My book is not so much about the players on the stage, but about the stage itself.”
Now available, his book chronicles the history of the post using about 235 photographs drawn from the archives of the Military History Institute and Cumberland County Historical Society.
Links in a chain
Durham explained how those surrounded by history often take it for granted -- they are so focused on the present, they lack an appreciation or understanding of the past.
“They do not understand they are links in a chain of events,” Durham said. “The book gives them a visual presentation so they can see the past. They can let their imaginations wander as they replay the scenes.”
To forge that link, his book includes old and new images set side by side to illustrate the progression of a scene shot at different points in time. As much as possible, Durham used copies of the original image as a reference to duplicate the camera angle used by the original photographer.
He spent much of last summer sorting through more than 300 images and using source material to prepare captions.
“The challenge was to give just enough of the story to put the photos into context, but not too much,” Durham said. “This is a good overview for someone interested in the history.”
Often, Durham had to use detective work to pinpoint when and where a photograph was taken, relying sometimes on the position of trees, sidewalks and other buildings to provide vital clues.
Many times, he used a magnifying glass to identify images within the older photographs, which he then had enlarged. His research turned up old images of the construction of the Wheelock Bandstand and documented the progression of one building site from cavalry stable to Indian School classrooms to the current location of Bliss Hall.
Indian School biographer Barbara Landis helped Durham verify the location of Indian School buildings on post.
Pleased about book
“I’m so pleased this book has been published,” she said. “It’s going to be a real asset into our understanding of the Carlisle Indian School.”
Landis added that the juxtaposition of old and new photographs makes the whole story of Carlisle Barracks come alive. Durham’s work also helps to debunk the old folktale of the ghost of Lucy Pretty Eagle haunting Coren Apartments.
The photographs prove Coren Apartments were the teachers’ quarters of the Indian School, she explained, and not the location of the girls’ dormitory.
“Girls never lived in that building,” Landis said. “The building may be haunted, but no child lived there.”
The dormitory stood where the tennis courts are today.
For the living, namely the relatives of Carlisle Indian School students, Landis said the book offers yet another dimension to the experience of visiting Carlisle Barracks.