Pine Mountain Settlement School 
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Grace Huse with kittens in her pockets and on her shoulders.

Dr. Grace Huse with kittens in her pockets and on her shoulders. Big Laurel Medical Center. big_laurel_3327.jpg

TAGS: Pine Mountain Settlement School photographs, Introduction to photographs, teaching through images, ceremonies, cultural style, photographic information, visual memory, historical photographs, about pageants, about visual learning



Pageants played an integral role in the education of Pine Mountain children and the interactive pageants and photographs that document many of the school events are evidence of the lengthy dependence on the visual image as a teaching tool. The long-term teaching through images continues today.  Pageantry provided the foundation for teaching with imagery and when photography became widely available. the photographers became the directors and the photographic image became a fundamental tool for remembrance within many eductiaonal programs. promotional efforts, and personal keepsakes of those who worked and visited the School. Photographs froze moments in time in the Scool’s history and they continue to do so. As captured moments of time spent at the institution, photographs, and now a wide variety of visual images, provide, arguably, the most direct route to the institution.

Photographs continue to be fundamental and when they are arranged chronologically, they for a pageant of history. While the pageants are also testimony to an era and brought an audience that shared in the visual stories, photographs are often a private interaction between a viewer and the object. Yet, both pageants and photograph seek to hold history, to hold stories together in their own unique manner. Both promote the arts and tell stories.

Contained within the many photographs in the Pine Mountain Settlement School records are some of the School’s most compelling stories. Images of music and dance, folk craft, mountain vernacular architecture, land use, costume, farm techniques and implements, scenery, neighbors, teachers, students, and classrooms — all document the life of the institution — the pageant of Pine Mountain Settlement School.

As the educational programs changed and grew and as the environmental programs evolved, so did the photographs. The photographic processes and aesthetics evolved but still froze in time both culture, context, and events. If one looks closely, “What”  the photographer chose to photograph is often reflected in the written documents of the time. The two together — photograph and archival record,  create and recreate how the creators lived and saw the world around them at a specific time in history.


446 Unknown pageant at Pine Mountain.

Like the written word, photographs capture the essence of the cultural values of the age and the personal interests of the photographer. Just as the pen often captures those essences of person and place, the photographic image makes real the fleeting glance, the intensity of a stare, the discomfort of being photographed, the joy of discovery.

Viet Nam visitors. lynn_paul_comm_002c

As workers came to Pine Mountain, they found themselves immersed in the experience of an often radically different culture. Through their camera lens, we can capture the photographer’s cultural shock, their empathy, and their struggle to place themselves within the context of rural Appalachia — or not.

Photographs are remarkable vehicles for primary source information. The visual content of the photographs, though often subtle, open the viewer to the vivid experience of other cultures, of other times, other lives, and other dreams and visions. But, these images should not be viewed as experiences of “other,” but as experiences of self. By standing behind the lens with the photographer and by reading the images themselves, we can learn much about ourselves. If we look very closely we can even see those things that Mary Rogers said, “matter most,”  While reflecting on the history of the institution she wrote the following the Preface of the Pine Mountain Album – 1913-1963, a publication prepared for the 50th anniversary of the School. Mary wrote:

Most of us are so busy trying to do what must be done today, and planning ahead to what needs to be done tomorrow that we have little time to look back to the things which happened yesterday. But we are celebrating an anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and so we will turn to the past — get out the old album and look at the pictures.

John D. Shell and wife Aunt Sis.

John D. Shell and Wife Mary Nolan “Aunt Sis” Shell on their front porch with Watch, their dog. Before 1917. mccullough_II_47a_full-view

It’s a funny thing, looking at old pictures. They don’t show the things that matter most: Uncle William’s craving that his people might grow better; Miss Pettit‘s dedication to bringing help to the mountains; Mrs. Zande‘s high standards and loving understanding of people; Mr. Morris‘ dynamic energy; the different gifts brought by hundreds of workers over the years.

Nor do they show the important things in a student’s life: the moments of courage; the hours of service; the growth in understanding; the vivid enjoyment of life; the deepening love for a place and its people; and sometimes the realization that the source of all things is the Love of God. 

All the same, let’s look at the pictures, some faded and old-fashioned, but taken because someone wanted to “keep” something from the past, and let us try and read into them the things for which they stand.

35 Friends & Neighbors : “Rob Short, Mary Mann, Renee Scearse, Mary Ann Begley,” wedding. [Vl_34_1108_mod.jpg]

— Mary Rogers, 1963

To view the full catalog of Pine Mountain Settlement School photographs, see the following GUIDE.


Some photograph albums are housed in flat file boxes. To locate photograph albums in box storage, see: BOXED PHOTOGRAPH ALBUMS

Direct access to original photographs and photographic materials is by permission only.

Please contact Pine Mountain Settlement School if photographs are to be used 
commercially. Fees for Commercial USE will apply.