Gay Grant holds up her second compilation of the photos of Herman Bryant on Tuesday outside Gardiner Public Library. The book, “Around the Kennebec Valley: The Herman Bryant Collection,” was released Monday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — Nearly 27 years after Gay Grant first showcased historical photographs of the Kennebec Valley in a book, she has returned to the same territory for a second volume.

“Around the Kennebec Valley: The Herman Bryant Collection,” was released Monday and on Tuesday the Gardiner Public Library hosted a book launch event with Grant, who was slated to talk about the book and show previously unreleased photos from the collection.

“I’ve been busy,” Grant said Tuesday, “What can I say?”

As she was waiting for the chairs to be delivered to the Children’s Room at the Gardiner Public Library on Tuesday, Dawn Thistle, assistant director and archivist at the Gardiner Public Library, said this is the first event the library has hosted since the planned events for the state’s 2020 bicentennial were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve already had someone buy the book (Monday) to read and bring back tonight,” Thistle said. “I’m expecting it to be a really great turnout.”

In her latest book, Grant, of South Gardiner, revisits the collection of photographer Herman Bryant, whose work captured daily life in and around the Kennebec River valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Her introduction to Bryant’s work came from Pauline Nute, a friend and neighbor, who had been given Bryant’s archive of glass plate negatives and boxes of prints, albums and postcards by Nute’s friend Minnie Bryant, the photographer’s oldest daughter. Grant cataloged the collection, which Nute entrusted to her, for the Maine State Museum and it became the foundation for the book as Grant searched for the details about the people and places featured in the photographs.

“Along the Kennebec: The Herman Bryant Collection,” for Arcadia Publishing was the result in October 1995, featuring 200 images from a catalog of more than 1,000.

Between then and now, life intervened. Grant worked on other projects, wrote another book, started a business and served in the Maine State Legislature. But the collection still called to her, and she weighed whether she would do an update to the original book — written largely without the vast trove of information now available on the internet — or write a new one. She opted for a new book.

“I knew that with all the material that could be available, it would be fun to do,” she said.

Some of that information came from people who recognized the photos from the first book and had more stories to tell. And she had a collection of notes and materials and additional resources, like the information from the historical society in Hartland, Vermont, where Bryant and his wife were originally from.

Grant said she had hoped to complete the second book in time for the 25th anniversary of the first book, but the COVID-19 pandemic happened, closing down the museum to public access.


“There’s only so much you can do online, and I had access to so much more in the archives there,” she said.

As she worked, she was helped by Ben Stickney, curator of photography at the Maine State Museum, the Maine Maritime Museum and from Thistle at the Gardiner Public Library.

“I would have been doing this another year without (Thistle),”  Grant said.

Thistle said it’s exciting to take historical collections that would be otherwise hidden and make them more accessible to people using the scanning technology in the Archive Room.

She also had help from Pittston residents Dan Warren Jr. and Dan Moulton, who recognized people they knew who had been photographed by Bryant.

Grant said she’s not sure whether she’ll do a third book, but she hopes to because she expects she’ll hear from people who recognize the photos in the most recent book and can provide more information.


“That might lead me on to another book,” she said.

Tuesday’s event in Gardiner is the first of three planned events, all fundraisers, where Grant will talk about the book and sign copies that people have bought.

The beneficiary of Tuesday’s event is the Gardiner Library Association. The nonprofit organization owns the building that houses the Gardiner Public Library and the land it sits on. It also pays for capital improvements and funds the purchase of new equipment.

The library has bought 150 copies of “Around the Kennebec Valley” for resale, and they will continue to be for sale after the event, Thistle said.

On Sept. 14, Grant’s doing a benefit for the benefit of the Belgrade Historical Society at the Belgrade Public Library, and on Sept. 15, she’ll do a benefit for the Kennebec Historical Society at the Hope Baptist Church.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.