- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) - The Camera Heritage Museum is crammed into a small storefront on Staunton’s Beverley Street.

Half of the museum’s collection can’t even be displayed due to the lack of space. However, all of that could change if David Schwartz, the museum’s curator, can raise up to $6.4 million to purchase the former P. Buckley Moss Museum in Waynesboro. That space boasts 25,000 square feet compared to the museum’s current 2,500 square feet.

“So it’s 10 times the space,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz started the museum’s camera collection 48 years ago, but just for himself. The idea of a museum didn’t come along until much later. Now with a collection of nearly 6,000 pieces, only 2,500 cameras are on display. The museum is comprised of Schwartz’s vast camera collection as well as the A. Lewis Bernard Vintage Camera Collection and the Jim McLeod Brownie Collection.

The museum also showcases photography in the area dating back to 1847 and also exhibits two notable photographers - Barnett Clinedinst Jr., who became the White House photographer for presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson; and also Bernie Boston, photographer for the Washington Star, LA Times, U.S. Senate, official White House and President Ronald Reagan’s personal photographer, according to the museum’s website.

Entering the museum, currently located in downtown Staunton, it’s as if time has stood still. The camera museum is housed in the Camera and Palette store, which still develops film and carries new and used camera equipment. The place is covered top to bottom in old point-and-shoots, large-scaled photography equipment and more. The museum encapsulates what it was like before the digital era of photography took hold.

“We’ve got to know where we came from to know where we’re going,” Schwartz said. “Photography is coming back more and more.”

Schwartz said he feels like digital photography isn’t as good of a medium compared to film. When digital photos go online, they are compressed and lose the quality of the photo.

There’s something magical about photography, especially film photography.

“I do believe through a camera you can make time stand still,” said Heather Martin, a museum volunteer. “You can’t do that without a camera. You can’t do that on a phone. I think it’s important to save the history of photography and the camera.”

What comes with the cameras are stories and that’s what Martin enjoys.

“I’ve never heard so many stories,” she said. “The history behind them, where else can you go to get world history and science and everything? I haven’t had a camera ever. I started working here and saw his love of cameras.”

Martin said she likes to learn how the older cameras work and she even got her three children into photography after she started volunteering at the museum. She can see how the museum is screaming for more room.

“It would give it the display it needs,” she said. “You have cameras upon cameras. It would just spotlight everything we have.”

“They’re just jam-packed in here,” Schwartz added.

The museum has been featured on Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts list numerous times, for its Kodak Brownie Collection and its earliest stereo daguerreotype in America.

The museum, which became a nonprofit in 2011, started fundraising a year ago to get money for the move. According to Schwartz, they still do not have enough money, but wouldn’t disclose how much had been raised thus far. Schwartz owns the building the museum is currently located in.

He’s looking to get grant funding to help in purchasing the building. Schwartz hopes that with the bigger space he can offer more classes, like darkroom classes. Schwartz said he can hold up to 40 classes in a month’s time, but every month varies. With more space, he’d be allowed to accommodate larger groups.

The main building, 10 acres and three outbuilding on the former P. Buckley Moss Museum site are owned by Virginia Tech. Ownership was transferred over in 2014, just before the P. Buckley Moss Museum downsized and relocated to downtown Waynesboro at the former Gateway Theater. The downtown Waynesboro location now serves as a gallery for Moss’s paintings.

“We have had initial conversations with Mr. Schwartz and are interested in continuing discussions to help create a successful museum,” said Greg Hitchin, Waynesboro economic development director.

If the museum moves to Waynesboro, Schwartz said it could help the museum become associated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Schwartz said it’s all up in the air of when they’d move to Waynesboro. One thing to catapult that move would be the museum acquiring a large sponsor to help with the fund.

“As soon as we have the money,” he said. “It does need quite a bit of repair. It needs a new roof and the columns are decaying. It needs a lot of rehab before someone can move into it.”

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Information from: The News Leader, http://www.newsleader.com

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