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Rare Historical Photos of San Juan County Now Available Digitally

The Utah Division of State History has made publicly available a new collection of rare photographs of southern Utah from 1890 to 1912.Largely taken by Charles Goodman, a photographer in Bluff, these images document mining ventures, landscapes, city streets, and residences. Donated to State History in 1997 by Afton Watkins Gardner, these photos were passed down from friends of Goodman. Gardner’s donation has not only preserved but made available to the public for the first time many original photographs of different aspects of history in San Juan County and surrounding areas.

“We are grateful to the San Juan County Historical Commission for their help in discovering the historic value of this collection and in identifying these images,” said Heidi Tak, the project manager.

“By partnering with the Historical Commission and senior citizens around Bluff, we were able to identify many of the details of these significant photos,” said Brad Westwood, director of State History. “We hope to explore similar citizen-led efforts in the future.”

Said Robert McPherson, a professor at Utah State University at Blanding, “This priceless treasure of early Bluff, Utah photos and of other areas near Four Corners is an important visual reminder of what rural life was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These images are in excellent condition and provide wonderful information.”

Over 250,000 photographs are now available publicly through the Utah Division of State History’s Digital Collections. Funding has been provided by the Department of Heritage & Arts digitization fund, which was created by the Utah Legislature in 2007. These images include hundreds of photos digitally preserved from extremely fragile glass plates or nitrate negatives that would otherwise never be seen publicly.

To view the photographs from Afton Waktins Gardner Collection as well as thousands of other images, visit the Digital Collections page at the Division of State History.