“LIFE” Comes to the Museum

By Allister Townson-Muse 

Starting March 1st, the White Pine Museum will be displaying a collection of “LIFE” magazines for museum patrons to view.

Each month the museum will place on exhibit a years’ worth of “LIFE”. Since the inaugural edition was printed on November 23, 1936, there will only be seven issues on display for that year.

The collection of magazines are on loan from Jack VanCamp. He discovered them while dismantling Kennecott’s General Office in Kimberly.

Stored in his basement for over 60 years, only a few have deteriorated and can no longer be handled. Mr. VanCamp has loaned the magazines to the museum so that visitors might spend some time viewing “LIFE” through these unique glimpses of America.

What originally started out as a weekly humor magazine, soon developed into the new medium of photo-journalism when American publisher Henry Luce purchased the failing magazine.

In Henry Luce’s words his magazine was a way for the American people “to see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events…. To see things thousands of miles away….to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed…. To see, and to show”.

The first cover photo of “LIFE” was Montana’s Fort Peck Dam taken by staff photographer Margaret Burke-White. Her photographs depicted the construction of the earthen dam and the lives of the workers and their families.

Along with White’s photographs are advertisements for automobiles ($695 for a new Hudson), reports on up and coming movie stars, the lives of insects and animals and an in-depth look at foreign countries.

Among others news, “LIFE” also carried stories of famous painters and their work. Snapshots of other countries showing royalty, wars and events were scattered throughout the magazine. “LIFE” magazine was a huge success in its first year of publication, having over 8 million subscribers. Newsstand copies cost 10¢ and a one year subscription cost $7.  “LIFE” ran as a weekly magazine from 1936 until 1972, but with high production costs and television taking over as the main form of communication, it eventually stopped producing weekly editions and now only produces special publications.

The White Pine Museum has new hours, 10:00am to 4:00pm seven days a week. Admission is $3 per person and children under 5 are free. Take a moment for yourself, turn off your cell phone.

Come in and experience what your local museum has to offer.

Don’t let “LIFE” pass you by!